On Promises

7.18.08 by Deus

I imported this article, practically unaltered, directly from my blog.

I attended eighth grade at Shawnee Heights Middle School. One of my easiest classes there was Algebra (an allegedly “advanced” class, and I was quite surprised with how easy it was). The teacher was good, he taught his subject fairly well and amused the class (and at the end of the year, he even admitted me to be the “genius” of the class), though he lost much of my respect when he showed a lack of caution at one point and presented the class with a promise: whoever was to solve a problem involving the quantity √-23 would not have to take any more tests and would receive an A for the year. He spoke completely seriously, saying that no one in his prior classes had ever solved the problem and, to quote, “The promise still stands.” Of course, I still had my doubts–was he even allowed to do that?–but I was very interested in what the answer was and, being naturally lazy, didn’t want to take any more tests. So I went to the library and spent an hour or two researching what the square root of a negative number was, eventually finding out that the quantity simply equated to i√23. I came to him at the beginning of school the next day, showed him the answer, and waited. He acknowledged that I had indeed solved the problem, and then left. In class that day, he didn’t answer my repeated attempts to draw his attention to the fact that he owed me that promise; it became apparent that he only made it because he didn’t expect anyone to solve the problem.

So what’s my point here? Never, ever, ever make promises you can’t keep. I have since learned that unless the person who makes the promise is extremely responsible, chances are that the promise isn’t going to be kept. I myself do not always keep all of my promises, but only when the promise is so insignificant that it hardly matters anyway.

Another example: when I was at MUNUC , I mentioned the Facebook group “Dravidism”, which worshipped Dravid, during a conversation. The people with whom I was talking were inspired by this idea and resolved to create a group named “Antonism”, which would concern me. As I subsequently told them, they would never make the group. Nevertheless, they assured me that they would. Guess what? They didn’t. There were many assurances along the way, but not a single one came true. I don’t blame them–I understand that people get caught up in the heat of the moment and promise things that they forget about or simply don’t bother to do. But it’s a really good idea to learn to control this urge.

I myself don’t make promises without leaving a back door (my favorites are “I’ll try to…” and “…If I don’t forget”). That way, I’m rarely to blame for my promises even if I don’t fulfill them.

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