I had the honor of officiating a wedding this last weekend, giving me a chance to reflect on the idea of promises and vows. What promises can/should we make to others and to ourselves? Which ones might be overreaching or setting us up to disappoint?
I’ve never felt comfortable with a vow that ended with “til death do us part.” Maybe this is because I don’t believe in adults committing to stay in a relationship no matter what, without any conditions. While the love between parent and child is the closest most of us get to the experience of unconditional love, between two consenting adults it’s healthy to have agreements for the relationship to continue and thrive.
Those vows or agreements can include respect, love, and compassion for our partner. But how many of us remain perfect with these vows? One of the most important vows is the one to tell the truth when we make a mistake or hurt each other’s feelings out of anger or hurt, to apologize without expectation of our partner’s forgiveness, and to practice forgiving ourselves. It feels to me that if we include the vows of love, respect, compassion, truth, and amends, we have a better chance of making it until death do we part.
I love the poem below by Hafiz, the Sufi poet, because it acknowledges the optimism and joy with which we may make promises but also the reality that we are students in Classroom Earth.
First there is wonderful laughter
And probably precious tears
And a hundred sweet promises
No one can ever keep
But the universe is delighted and amused
You once tried to be a saint.
What happens when your soul
Begins to awaken in this world
To our deep need to love
And serve the Friend?
O, the Beloved will send you
One of His wonderful, wild companions!
Causes Jane Straus Supports
International Rescue Committee
The Southern Poverty Law Center
The Nature Conservancy