Essay by Ben Depraz-Brenninkmeijer
Time to read: 4 minutes
“Just for today I will be unafraid. I will enjoy that which is beautiful & will believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.“
When exposed to the idea that we might have to commit to something or someone for the rest of our lives, most of us tend to freak out a little bit, if not doubt our abilities at the very least. Life-long commitments seem like insurmountable requests, especially nowadays. We say we have a fear of commitment. We dread the “commitment trap”. I see that show up often in romantic relationships, but not only. Giving up something in one’s diet, for example, alcohol or meat, can be a source of distress for somebody.
“ Are you asking me to commit to the same person for the rest of my life? ”
“ Are you saying I can’t eat any more meat, ever? ”
“ Are you asking me never to drink any sip of alcohol ever again? ”
The most obvious and honest reaction to these questions is: “ I don’t know if I’m capable of doing this… ” Of course you don’t know if you can do this! You have not lived the rest of your life yet, so how would you know?
The idea of a life-long commitment is a tough one to grasp. How can I make a promise that I will have to uphold in 5 years, 20 years, 50 years? It seems a ridiculous and near-impossible task, like Sisyphus tirelessly pushing his large rock up on a steep hill. Doomed to fail. This is why I love the “Just For Today” idea which is used in AA’s 12-step recovery programme. You don’t have to never drink again. But just for today, can you make that promise to yourself? Can you stay away from alcohol, just for today? Sure, that I can do. It feels manageable. How about tomorrow? Tomorrow we’ll see when we get there. And then, the next day, the same question is asked. Just for today, can you keep that promise? And we go on repeat, one day at a time.
All we did is chunk it down to something that feels realistic and achievable. We’re not making grand gestures about infinity and eternity here. We’re just taking life one day at a time, and truth be told that’s not such a bad idea considering that’s how all of us live it.
That’s how I – pragmatically – see my commitment to my wife. Whenever someone asks me about my ability to stay committed forever, I admit that I don’t know about forever. Of course like any human being, I enjoy the idea of it, I enjoy the feeling of saying that I can commit forever because it feels noble and powerful. But if I’m honest, all I can do is take it one day at a time, and every day choose to renew my whole-hearted commitment to her.
Any commitment you make in your life is not forever, simply because it will need to be renewed regularly. And when you feel like wavering or like you’re stepping off the path, ask yourself if you would be willing to keep up your commitment “just for today”.
One of my clients once started debating this, arguing that this was tricking himself into a fake reward that would never come. He saw this process as a sort of delayed gratification mechanism, which would be deceitful as he would never actually reap the reward the next day because of repeating the idea the next day. In his mind, Just For Today was a trick of the mind, depriving him of something valuable and desirable. He got it completely upside down.
The reward isn’t alcohol, meat, or sleeping with anyone you want. The reward isn’t what the commitment casts out of (or into) your life. The reward is the upholding of the commitment itself. The reward is going through the day keeping your word to yourself. The reward is noticing the clarity and purity of your mind when you do so. The reward is simply enjoying your own power to choose. This is not deprivation. This is liberation.
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