Vows Part 2 – Seeking Truth

The next element — once you’ve decided on your goal and how you’re going to approach it — is to stay true to that determination. In other words, you really stick to your vow and don’t suddenly change your mind in mid-course. The only good reason for changing your mind would be if you find that you’re doing serious damage to yourself. Then you might want to reconsider the situation. Otherwise, if it’s just an inconvenience, or a hardship, you stick with your determination no matter what.
This is your way of learning how to trust yourself. Truthfulness, “sacca“, is not simply a matter of speaking the truth. It also means sticking truly to what you’ve made up your mind to do. If you don’t stick truly to that, you’ve become a traitor to yourself. And when you can’t rely on yourself, who will you rely on? You go hoping for someone else to rely on, but they can’t do the work you have to do. So you learn to be true to your determination.” –Thanissaro Bhikkhu
So this next part of making a vow is the simplest and yet the hardest for many people to keep. It requires that we be really honest with what is going on with our vow. When I was in High School I once had a conversation with someone about how shoplifting from Walmart might somehow be ok because they are such a big company and they mistreat their employees etc. etc. I’ll never forget what he said to me, “You can justify it however you want but stealing is stealing.” He was totally right.

When I reflect on my life I can see many times where I made excuses for myself and justified my actions. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ Well I think it would be more apt to say ‘the road to hell is paved with good justifications.’ It’s not the good
intentions that set us on the wrong path it’s the justifications that move us
away from those intentions.

Keeping a vow means being honest about how it’s going. Are you doing the exercise you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it? You might have a good reason for being late, but are you still late? This isn’t to say you should beat yourself up about any slip you might have. That’s extra, but as my spiritual teacher told a dear friend of mine DON’T WOBBLE! If you’re wobbling be honest, right yourself, and step forward with confidence. Be gentle but firm with yourself. Imagine the big you the part of you that stays calm in the storm, nudging the part of you thats freaking out and justifying because it’s scared. Imagine the big you gently but firmly pushing you where you want to go. If it gets to be a shoving match ease up. It’s not about being rough, it’s about a slow gentle but firm pressure. It’s this kind of pressure that created the Grand Canyon, the lovely beaches, and spiritual leaders like the Buddha or Christ. It’s the kind of pressure that transforms lives over the long term.

Lying to ourselves is one of those insidious habits that grows and grows. It’s like termites eating the support beams of our vows. But being honest with ourselves and returning again and again to our vows and our intentions is like adding more support beams. That’s why truth, hard as it can be to swallow, is such an essential element to making changes real in our lives.

Take some time to reflect on someplace in your life where you have been lying to yourself about keeping your vows. How can do better the next time? What tools can you use to support that vow? What preparations can you make to set yourself up for success? Then take a few moments to reflect on a place where you are being honest with your vow. What does it feel like to reflect on that virtue? How is being honest with that vow changing your life?

Thanks for reading the next post will be about the next aspect of vow and determination: relinquishment.


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