Pic.: Anima D'Cunha
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
- C. S. Lewis
What actually happens inside me when I make a promise to someone and keep it?
A lot happens… or, nothing at all.
If making a promise to someone and keeping it is a value I cherish in my life, then, when I keep my promises given to others, I, invariably, feel good about myself… On the other hand, if it isn’t something important to me – not a value to me – then, even if I make a thousand promises to others and break them, nothing will happen at all inside my heart!
Making a promise to someone in my awareness, guided by my strong sense of values in life, yes, it helps me keep them. I know it is important for developing my healthy self-esteem. The more I break my promises, the worse I feel about myself… My self-esteem goes down!
Then, there is a promise which I make to myself and either keep it or break it. This is even subtler… even more important for our well-being. Again, if I make this promise to myself consciously, guided by my values, it helps me to keep it. As nobody else is a witness when I make this private promise, the pressure - or the expectation to keep - it is just not there… I am easily tempted to break it. But, if keeping this private promise is a value to me, then, my well-being… my healthy self-esteem… yes, it depends on it.
Last evening, during the Workshop on ‘Self-esteem’, our facilitator, Shri. Ram Mohanji, was guiding us through the seven pillars of building a healthy self-esteem. One of them, as he put it, was living life with self-integrity… “Watch what the ‘knower’ and the ‘doer’ do inside you,” he asserted, “If the doer does what the knower knows… yes, when the gap between the knower and the doer reduces, and integrity comes in life… This integrity is vital for our healthy self-esteem.”
Whether or not anybody is a witness when I make a promise to someone or to myself, the important thing is whether or not I honor it. The more I keep my promises, the more integrated my life becomes.
During the Workshop last evening, Ram Mohanji gave us the example of King Dasharatha’s promise to Kaikeyi… Kaikeyi, one of the three wives of King Dasharatha, had saved her husband in the battlefield… Moved by his wife’s courage, the grateful King had promised Kaikeyi that he would gladly grant any two boons she asked for. That was the promise made when nobody was a witness to it… And, that was made years and years ago. Then, when the time came to choose the worthy Prince – the King’s successor - of Ayodhya, Dashratha had chosen Ram – the eldest of his sons born to his first wife, Kaushalya. This was the time, Kaikeyi, instigated by her wet nurse, Manthara, reminded her husband of the promise he had made in the battlefield and asked for the two boons… One: her own son, Bharat, be crowned the worthy Prince… Two, Ram be sent for a fourteen-year vanvaas!
"Any mortal would have found it impossible – even foolhardy - to honour this kind of promise," Shri Ram Mohanji said, “Dasharatha was a powerful King and Kaikeyi was just one of his three wives… He could have exploited that position and bluntly refused to keep his word. Moreover, nobody was a witness to that promise, which was made years ago and, the King could have coolly denied making it… Raat gayi baat gayi. But, to King Dasharatha, it was an important value… and he was conscious of that.”
My promises – which I make to others or myself – are not as epic in proportion as in the legend of Ramayana… Still, a promise is a promise, as the legend goes…
At least, as far as my self-esteem goes!