Broken Promises – letting go of the guilt

How high is Truthfulness on your list of values? Are you someone who keeps your word? Do your friends trust you to keep your promises?
I’m guessing these things really matter to you.


I’m also guessing there are times when you’ve broken a promise or two and you probably STILL feel guilty about it.
It may be something small, like a promise to run an errand for a friend which you forgot, or it may have been huge – like an infidelity. It was probably a promise you made to another person, but it could well have been a promise you made to yourself.


The question is: how do you forgive yourself when you’ve let someone down?
The other question is: why should anyone ever trust you again?

The simple answer to both? We all make mistakes.
A simple truth? We are much more likely to forgive other people’s mistakes than we are our own.
This is so sad, because when we keep ourselves trapped in guilt and unforgiveness we keep ourselves stuck in so many other ways. We can punish ourselves, deny ourselves and forgo opportunities because we don’t believe we “deserve” them.
If this is true for you, you may need a better answer than “we all make mistakes”.


The better answer comes in our understanding that life is a journey of growth.
We can have compassion on our younger selves for the mistakes we have made when we understand the difference between where we were then and where we are now on the journey. The perspective we had on life then was more limited than the one we have now.

Can we forgive ourselves not so much for what we did or didn’t do in the past, but for the person we were then?
I hope so. To look on our younger selves with compassion and forgiveness acknowledges how much we have grown since then. It acknowledges the development in our understanding and character. If you are a person interested in your personal and spiritual development, practice your growth through forgiving yourself for your broken promises.
This perspective of your life as a journey of growth can also help you find peace with any future broken promises. This is not about making excuses, but about understanding your life’s trajectory.


Sometimes we can make a promise with every good intention to keep it. Then our circumstances change. We lose our job and no longer have the means to finance the loan we had promised our son. We promised confidentiality, until we discovered we had been lied to and the lie was about to hurt someone else. What I’m saying is that circumstances change and those changed circumstances sometimes affect our ability or our wisdom in keeping the promises we made in good faith.


I made promises on my wedding day that I had every intention of keeping when I made them, but twenty years later when I got divorced those promises were broken. I broke them because I saw greater harm in keeping them, than in breaking them. It was not because I didn’t value keeping my word; it was because my perspective had changed.
Some people will understand the changes that break promises; others never will. All I can say is this: whatever promises you have broken and whatever the reason, forgive yourself and set yourself free from the guilt. Life is a journey. Recognise the lessons in your broken promises and continue your journey with a clean heart.