A number of years ago at my first personal growth seminar, the wise group leader asked if I had problems with commitment. I clearly remember my thought processes. “Commitment? I’m not sure I understand what that means. Oh well, it’s probably not important.”
That was a pivotal realization for me. I subsequently learned what commitment means and how it shows up for me. Maybe this is on my mind now because I’m coming up on a significant wedding anniversary– my first. That aspect of my life is working well. What about the parts that aren’t?
I recently had to cancel two workshops because not enough people had signed up. Certainly the beautiful weather and/or frightening world circumstances may have been factors. But I wonder how much of the lack of interest was generated by me. For both events I had created a design that was about 80% complete and I stopped there. I had the main ideas worked out but didn’t finish the final agenda or produce the handouts. Was this prescience or a self-fulfilling prophesy? Are people not committing to me because I’m not committing to them? Which is the cause and which is the effect?
In retrospect I think I was waiting for the enthusiasm of others to carry me over that last hurdle. I wanted to see some registrations before I fully committed. It was a bargain, not a gift. Why? Holding back certainly didn’t protect me from disappointment. And we’ll never know whether the effort would have been wasted. What would it have cost me to disconnect the giving from the receiving? I don’t tell my husband, “I will love you if you love me back.”
At that same personal growth seminar mentioned above I heard a useful explanation of the different levels of commitment:
Level One – I hear you.
Level Two – I’ll think about it.
Level Three – I’ll do it (unless something comes up).
Level Four – I’ll do it unless, god forbid, I’m hit by a bus.
Level Five – I’ll drag myself there bloodied and broken if I have to.
I like this distinction. Not every circumstance deserves a high level of commitment– it would be exhausting. But I want to choose based on what I’m willing to give not on what I want from others.
Maybe it’s not a matter of disconnecting the two sides of the bargain, but providing both halves yourself– the giving and the receiving. I have this image of a seesaw. The more commitment you have on one side the more trust you need to put on the other– trust that your needs will be met somehow or other. At all levels the seesaw is balanced, but the heavier the commitment and trust, the wilder the ride.