“I will leave work today by 5:00, whether I’ve crossed everything off my to-do list or not!”
“I need to be more assertive the next time someone makes an inappropriate comment about my [insert object of unwelcome observations here].”
“I’m going to start having a date night with my significant other at least once a month.”
“This year I will finally learn how to [insert dreamed-of hobby here].”
It’s good to make promises to ourselves. It’s perhaps more important to keep them. (I confess, I’m particularly guilty of fudging on #1.) But why? Other than me, who suffers when I break a commitment pledged only to myself?
Actually, it matters a lot that we can trust ourselves, and not just in terms of “I’m going to report all my wonky ministry income to the IRS” or “I’m going to visit that shut-in like I planned to whether anyone else knows about it or not.” If we don’t follow through on what we say we’ll do for ourselves, we cannot build self-trust. And according to Stephen M. R. Covey, we must learn to trust ourselves before we’re fully ready to trust or be trusted by others. Considering that the whole of ministry – the whole of communal life, really – is rooted in trust, self-trust is thus a big deal.
Covey says that when we don’t come through for ourselves, “Not only do we lose trust in our ability to make and keep commitments, we fail to project the personal strength of character that inspires trust. We may try to borrow strength from position or association. But it’s not real” (The Speed of Trust, p. 45). Instead, when we do keep promises to ourselves, we lay the groundwork for what Covey calls the four cores of credibility. We demonstrate congruence between what we say and how we act. We show that our stated motives are real, not just lip service. We prove that we have the ability to carry out the tasks themselves. And we have the track record to prove we are trustworthy.
This emphasis on self-trust puts a whole new spin on self-care, an area in which many ministers struggle. We want and need rest and replenishment, but we feel guilty laying claim to them. So we make plans and then push them aside when one more person needs one more thing from us. We treat our commitments to ourselves as fluid, and in doing so we violate the four cores of self-trust, making it harder for trust to flow between us and others.
How then does our inability to trust ourselves impact our ministry? Our relationships with family and friends? And if trust – faith – is the heart of our belief system, how does a lack of self-trust affect our own spirituality? There’s much more at stake than meets the eye when we don’t keep promises to ourselves. May we be encouraged to follow through on our personal plans so that we can be not only rejuvenated for ministry but also credible in our leadership.