People mistakenly think they are committed to things that they are in fact not committed to. In reality they only desire those things.
More often than not we are committed to what is familiar, immediate, and easy.
Let me explain:
Over the last few months, there has drifted in and out of my thinking the distinction between desire and commitment. This seems to be a healthy distinction to make, or even face up to in ones own life. I suspect that many people think they are committed to something for which, in realty, they are not committed to. Instead it is only a desire; a desire they are mistaking for commitment. They want credit for something they have not in fact earned credit for. Consider the difference between:
- Desiring to be “in shape” vs. commitment to being “in shape”
- Desiring a healthy marriage vs commitment to healthy marriage.
- Desiring business success vs commitment to succeeding
- Desiring to see a church grow vs being committed to its growth
- Desiring a career in a field vs being committed to getting a job in the field
The original context for my thinking however was in the context of truth. There is a difference between:
- Desiring to say one holds to the truth in politics/theology/sociology vs. commitment to truth in that domain.
There is a twist here, that I can set forward in terms of two steps. If one is not willing to take the first step, it is unlikely one will take the second step and discover what lies behind it (which is perhaps more valuable):
Step One: come to the place where you can admit that your commitment and desires are different things:
- I’m not committed to being in shape… I simply desire it.
- I’m not really committed to succeeding in business, I just wish I were a successful business person.
- I’m not committed to the growth of this church, I merely want this church to be thriving.
- I’m not committed to a healthy marriage, I just desire my marriage to be healthy.
- Similarly in political, theological, sociological discourse one may need to admit, “I’m not committed to truth here, I simply desire to claim truth for my side.
Step Two: If you can admit that you are not committed to the things you thought you were, it opens you to asking what you ARE in fact committed to. This leads to perhaps a more valuable (deeper?) realization —-> One might discover that they don’t desire what they think they desire, but instead desire something associated with that thing. It is an ancient point of discussion that we don’t know ourselves as we think and that in fact our desires might be other than what we think they are.
For example, one may not be committed to becoming a physician but only desire it. Here the same person may come to realize that in fact they don’t really desire to be a physician, but instead desire the pride and wealth they assume is associated with being an “MD.”
Step Two: try to discern what you actually desire, not just what you think you desire. Below I’ve combined step one and two into at each bullet point.
- I’m not committed to being in shape I just desire it. No, upon reflection, I just fantasize about a lifestyle associated with the perfect body. This is my real desire.
- I’m not committed to succeeding in business, I just desire it. No, upon reflection, I just want to be rich and I fantasize about how this will change my social life. This is what I really desire.
- I’m not committed to the growth of this church, I just desire it. No, upon reflection what I really desire is to avoid certain comments from friends and family if I leave or perhaps I desire to retain my friendship network which is predominantly at that church.
- I’m not committed to truth in political discourse, I just desire it. No, upon reflection, what I really desire is the comfort of assuming the way that my group views the world is in fact the way things are. Perhaps I desire to avoid the disorientation that would accompany admitting my position in political discourse is wrong. Perhaps I desire to avoid the arduous work of understanding the research that—as it turns out—disproves my position.
If one begins to commit themselves to things like truth, growth, and change, it will likely cause the loss of what they are in fact committed to —-> the familiar, the comfortable, and the immediate. Once can’t be committed to going in two directions at once. Life will become uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and delayed. This however leads to one’s life occupying genuinely new horizons. I could of course say lots more about how deeply meaningful this is, etc… by I want to cut things off here and just stick (for now) with the basic point about mistaking our desires for commitment. I think it is a healthy step in life to be able to come to the place where I say, “You know, I may not really be committed to that as much as I think I am. I merely desire X. I’m not really where I thought I was in life, in fact I’m over HERE in this position. Thats a healthy step to take.