Another fear developed over time, but was first noticeable during adolescence. It has been said that men are afraid of commitment these days. I’m not going to comment except to say that if men are uniquely afraid of commitment, there is no doubt which sex I am. I became terrified of commitment. When I say commitment, I’m not simply referring to marriage or any strong romantic relationship, although there is an element of that as well. I’m referring to most things in life that require some kind of commitment. A friend would ask me to meet and hang out someplace on a weekend and I would say yes. Most of the time when I said yes it was because I was very interested in participating in theory. Then the day of the get together came. However, now I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home and relax. If this had only happened a couple of times, I wouldn’t have given it much thought. The problem was that this sort of thing happened the majority of the time.
Now, when you don’t intend to stick to your plans, you usually have two options. You can tell the person that you won’t be attending. Depending on the situation, how much advance notice you give, and the relationship between you two you will either get a polite acknowledgement of the decision, a word of two about being disappointed before accepting the decision, or a mild to moderate rebuke for the decision. The other option is that you could simply not show up. Most likely, the person will be very angry with you. You won’t receive a mild rebuke, but a tirade. Trust has been broken between you two, which might damage the relationship. Usually, the person will forgive you in time. But as you can see, the backlash from cancelling, even on the same day as the arranged meeting, is far less serious than being a no-show.
Despite this undeniable logic, I often chose to be a no-show. The fear overrode the logic. I didn’t want to deal with any kind of blowback. But, when confronted with the immediate need to deal with the discomfort, I chose to spare myself the immediate confrontation and deal with the repercussions at a later time. I was afraid to deal with the pain of a friend’s disappointment in me until I was backed into a corner and no longer had a choice. That’s the way I’ve dealt with a lot of my fears. I procrastinate until there is no escaping it, there are no good options left, and it is simply do or die. Needless to say, this caused a lot of problems for me: straining friendships, losing out on little odd jobs, or ending romantic relationships. Yes, I even procrastinated when dealing with girls I dated. That is a major regret of mine. Even to this day I can’t recall what was going through my mind when I was dating a girl and flaked out on them numerous times. The only thing I can think of was that I was very immature. But if that is the case, I’m still immature when handling other kinds of commitment; although, I have improved a bit.
I missed out on a lot of great opportunities and adventures due to this fear. And of course, keeping your word is crucial to earning trust and respect. A point came where I was tired of breaking my promises so often I decided to avoid making them as much as possible. However, attending work, doctor appointments, and other vitally important official matters was not a problem for me. But, those are situations in which there isn’t really a choice. If I didn’t attend work, I would be fired and lose my source of income. If I skipped doctor appointments, I would still be charged. My reasoning wasn’t altruistic, it was self-serving. I didn’t care how breaking those promises affected other people; only how they affected me. But, at least keeping my word started to mean a little more to me than nothing.
Avoiding making promises I couldn’t keep was a step in the right direction, but many times in life we can’t avoid them. For example, sometimes people need to know whether you will be joining them because they need a proper head count to know how many seats to reserve, how much food to bring, or how many volunteers they will have. Being a no-show to events like this can be costly for them and possibly hurt your standing as a member of that group. Those decisions were especially difficult for me to make. The only thing that would make decisions like those less painful would be if a commitment was not required until half an hour beforehand. Unfortunately, the reality is that can’t be done.
If I make a commitment to do something or go somewhere that is not of a vital nature, one of the factors affecting whether I go through with it or not depends on how I’m feeling when the moment comes to actually do it. If I sort of don’t want to do it then I may end up doing it anyway. If I do, it helps me grow. If I don’t, it makes me regress. If I really don’t want to do it the chances are great I will not go through with it. In those cases I feel a little less upset with myself than I would if I had even the tiniest hint of a will to go through with it, because it will have been less under my control. It is an internal struggle. Ultimately, I still have some work to do to get to the point where I can confidently say, “I’m a man of my word.”