‘Let’s not become commitment-phobic’

Commitment. What does that word conjure up for you? For some of us it causes cold chills to run up our spines. For others, it brings a warm sense of belonging and stability.

Commitment impacts our marriages and personal relationships. It affects our daily lives, our work, our leisure time and our society. We wonder why our New Year’s resolutions fall to the wayside by March. It needs to involve commitment. The fitness classes are full in January, a few missing faces in February, and by March we are down to the core of folks who are actually committed to getting in shape.

Our Parent Teacher Organizations start out the fall with a number of faces and everyone is excited. By January there are six people around the table trying to figure out where everyone else is. In many cases they just didn’t have a commitment to the goals of the organization. It is easier to stay warm and cozy at home than to make the effort to come out to a meeting we are only half interested in.

Peter Drucker said, “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” For those who commit to a fitness program, there are plans. For those who think a fitness program is a good idea, like the concept, but are unwilling to truly commit to it, there is only promises, wishful thinking, but no plan. I think that is why the Couch to 5K fitness plan worked well this past year. There was a plan — to run a 5K at the end of the prescribed fitness program.

One of the components of a strong family is stability and security. The knowledge that mom and dad will be there when you get home from school — today, tomorrow, and the next day. The knowledge that if mom says she will pick you up after school this afternoon, she will be there. The security of knowing that the house will be warm, supper will be on the table, and that you will get your good night hug. All those things come from a commitment to each other.

I know many who read this have not had the experience of being in committed relationships that have lasted. Many, many things complicate these commitments we make. I do not want to oversimplify the complicated aspects of human relationships. I do want to make a case for not giving up on commitments. They are important — to the future of our marriages, our families, our relationships, and our communities.

Many town meetings occurred this past weekend. We honor citizens who have been committed to our communities — these are the folks who have shown up and worked to make our towns better, often over a period of many years. They have committed themselves to new playgrounds, better bridges, integrity in our town finances, books in our libraries. They have worked to raise funds, get votes, and recruit volunteers all in an effort to make our towns a better place to live.

Let’s not become commitment-phobic, wary of committing to anything. We can, and should make commitments — to each other, to our children, to our schools, to our communities. We will all be better for it.

If you need to make commitments for changes in your parenting, your finances, your employment, The River Center can help. Give us a call at 924-6800 or email me at

Margaret E. Nelson is the executive director of the River Center in Peterborough.

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