Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Teaching The Sanctity of a Promise

I must admit that I am bothered when people don’t keep their promises to me. It may be something as important as honoring a debt, or something as small as the appliance repairman showing up when promised. But if someone gives me their word and then fails to keep it, I am not the most forgiving of people. I promise to work on that! Recently, I had the opportunity to reflect on the importance of keeping promises, and how critical it is that we teach our children about the sanctity of a marriage vow.

During a vacation where our family retreated to a desert condo for a week, we occasionally endured the banality of cable television and the constant assault of ridiculous commercials. I could write more about what I think of cable TV, but will reserve that for another time. While we spent very little time watching television during our vacation, there was one repetitive commercial worth noting. Specifically, this advertisement was encouraging people to trade in their gold jewelry to be melted down, in exchange for quick payment. One satisfied customer commented, “I traded in the wedding ring from my first marriage, and got cash the next day!”


That quote contains the essence of our society’s latest attitude toward the institution of marriage. It’s summed up in one succinct sound-bite, and it speaks volumes. I’m saddened at how the advertisers can cheapen marriage to this degree. I’m even more disappointed that society seems to think little or nothing about such a statement. Would this advertisement have caused an uproar if it had been released on television fifty years ago? I think it would have, and for all the right reasons.

I recognize that there are people out there who have been through divorce and re-marriage. And I genuinely appreciate that it is heart-wrenching for all parties involved. Even when people talk flippantly about their former marriages, I believe that they hurt deep down inside over the pain – because God made marriage to be something more than just “teaming up” with someone. It’s a very special union – intimate and sacred – because He wanted it to be that way. And so I want you to know that I don’t comment on the subject in judgment on anyone personally, but as a comment about our society and how we collectively are made to think that marriage is nothing special.

The best part of this story is how much this commercial bothered my eleven-year-old son. Every time we saw it, he became indignant. To him, the irreverence for a lasting marriage was more than distasteful. He actually appeared angry about the commercial and continued to talk about it for a long time afterward. I know that my wife and I have talked occasionally with our children about the institution of marriage, and how they should pick a spouse, but I did not know how much it had affected their views. I’m pleased to see my son so deeply cut when someone mentions marriage in a cheap and demeaning way. Could a vow to remain true for life ever be satisfied in exchange for cash money? Is it possible that people are hurting over failed marriages far more than they would admit?

Let me share one tip with anyone who is married and has children of an impressionable age. One thing that my wife and I have always done and remain faithful over is our treatment of the mere mention of divorce. While I have never even thought fleetingly about a divorce from by beloved bride, we maintain a strict policy in our house. We will never mention divorce even in a joking way – not in front of the kids and not to each other. To us, the sanctity of marriage is at work one-hundred-percent of the time. We never let our guard down on this topic. We never casually even mention the word in our house, and the few times that our kids have done so, we stop what we are doing and talk to them about our rule, and why we maintain it. Judging by our son’s response to the television ad, it seems to be working. I pray that his marriage will be blessed by this developing attitude. A marriage vow is far more than a casual promise.