Opinion: The power of a promise, the beauty of a surprise

by Kayode Oyero

“The key to great image is not to promise at all or under-promise and over-deliver.” -Michael LeBoeuf.

“A father had two sons. He went to the first son and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard.”
“I will not,” the first son bluntly answered; but afterward he changed his mind and ran the errand.
Then the man approached the second son and said the same thing. “I will go sir,” politely replied the second son but he did not go.”- Jesus of Nazareth

Musing on the above narrative told by the great Jewish role-model, I gleaned one or two lessons from it and I will like to share it with you. You may not like the personality of the story-teller. You may be a Muslim, Hinduist, Buddhist, African Traditionalist or even an Atheist. That doesn’t count now. I want you to take your mind off the messenger and concentrate on the message. I want you to be un-prejudicial about the narrator but focus on the narrative. Many of us forget religion in academic studies but strangely go fanatical and discriminatory when it comes to social studies.

Let me shock you, some authors of those textbooks were atheist but you don’t even know because you were consumed with the thirst of knowledge. Why should you even know? Knowledge acquisition transcends the borders of religion. This is not the objective of this piece however. Sorry for the digression. I just had to do that. Perhaps it might flatten the stony walls of prejudice that religion have mounted in our hearts which oftentimes blinds us from seeing anything good in religions apart from ours. For clarity and emphasis, this piece is not about religion; it is a nugget of wisdom for daily living.
Now, let’s get back on track.

The above anecdote is instructive to me. The lesson I see dominating the story is simply not to promise but surprise! The second son promised but failed – whether deliberately or not – while the first son who seemed disobedient by telling his father to his face that he couldn’t go later surprised the father by running the errand – perhaps upon a rethink. Disobedience I think is not in mere words but in action. But the point to ponder on here is far deeper than face obedience or disobedience; it is about which of the two sons eventually did the father’s will.

Life is quite unpredictable and volatile. Making promises is quite simple just by opening our mouths or declaring our intention via writing but keeping promises is utmost. Many a time, quite understandable and excusable, it is not as though we don’t want to keep a promise but circumstances beyond our control just show up and numb our resolve, crippling our will to do what we promised. As a result, we are pained and concerned about our new perception in the eyes of who or those we promised. But we soon realized that there is little or absolutely nothing we can do to salvage the situation. And because people may not understand or believe the reason we failed to keep a promise, off they go questioning our integrity!

To be on a safe side, like the first son who said “No.” but later did the father’s will, I am of the opinion that putting up surprises is far better than making promises and reneging on them. When we make a promise to someone or a group of persons, we build their expectations. And the higher we build people’s expectations, the harder it becomes to meet and exceed them. Asides, we run the risk of disappointing people and getting our integrity soiled when we make a promise.

Making a promise is the sure road to bad image. You will agree with me that the first son who said “No.” but who later ran the errand to the father’s amazement did well to redeem his image while the second son who promised but failed rubbished his image in the eye of the father. “The key to great image is not to promise at all or under-promise and over-deliver,” says psychologist Michael LeBoeuf.
Promises either makes or breaks one’s reputation. Be careful of people who like you to make commitments with your words. Though I don’t subscribe to saying a blatant “No.” like the first son but keeping the suspense is fun and better for the preservation of self-image and integrity. Even if you are certain, just say like Paul of Tarsus: “Let’s see how it goes…If the Lord wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that but I am not promising you. I don’t know what the next minute holds.” [Emphasis Mine]

Before I draw the curtain, let me quickly make a clear-cut distinction between a promise and an agreement. A promise is different from an agreement. Promises are favours or aid to be rendered by a person or group of people to another party while an agreement is no favours at all but mutual resolutions between two parties. Two persons of opposite genders in love make an agreement to live life together. Two entities make an agreement to be in business together. Agreements are different from promises but both are commitments.

My dear friend, there is much value to surprises than unmet promises. Not knowing can be a greatest motivator. Life is sweet with suspense. Take reality by surprise. Startle people with pleasant surprises of good unexpected things not loads of promises that you may or may not meet. Surprises are beautiful because they come without waiting. Talk less and act more. Promise less and surprise often. Life is beautiful with suspense. Keep the suspense!

Making promises and determination to fulfilling them is a discourse for yet another time but I can’t promise you. (Smiles) Thanks for reading. God bless.
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Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Kayode Oyero is a product of Grace and a Bridge-builder. He writes from Lagos, South-West, Nigeria. His works aim to inform, transform and reform. He can be reached via [email protected] or @Imodoye_1

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