“Decide to Decide,” Tambuli, Feb. 1989, 41
A commitment is a promise or pledge. The commitment may be made to the Lord, to another person—or to oneself. Keeping commitments is one of the surest signs of integrity and is essential to both spiritual progress and temporal success. Yet, in a world where we are constantly being tempted, commitments can sometimes be difficult to keep. Understanding how to make commitments and how to keep them can help us gain the strength to resist such temptations and guide both children and adults toward correct principles.
One way is to decide how to react in a given situation before the situation arises. Consider the following two stories:
Maria was a young woman who had graduated from secondary school and began work as a secretary with a large company. She was the only Latter-day Saint employee in the office. Long before the New Year, everyone in the office was talking about the annual New Year’s Eve party. Traditionally, the office closed early on New Year’s Eve, and a wild celebration went far into the night.
Maria was concerned about the party for a long time before it actually took place. She didn’t want everyone to think she did not want to enjoy the party with them, but this kind of celebration was not in keeping with her church standards. She thought about claiming to be ill on December 31, but decided that being dishonest was not in keeping with her standards either. Her decision finally was to watch the clock closely. When the time neared for closing the office, she would quietly clear her desk, gather her things, and leave before being noticed.
However, when the time came to do this, the other workers began to gather before she could complete her plan, and Maria found herself in the middle of the office party.
She made a second plan. She would stand off to one side. When the party got underway, she would leave unnoticed. However, before long a group of her fellow employees had gathered around her, prodding and teasing.
“Just take one drink.”
“No one will know.”
“No one should go through life without at least tasting liquor.”
Her refusals and pleas were in vain. Frustration rising, Maria thought, “I’ll drink this drink, then get out of here.”
She held the glass up, but she could not drink it. She remembered the Primary teacher who had taught her the Word of Wisdom several years earlier. At that moment her ordeal was over. Handing the glass to someone, she firmly said, “No. I don’t drink. I never have, and I don’t intend to start today.” Pushing her way through the group, Maria picked up her coat and left.
Although Maria didn’t realize it, she had made the decision years earlier in a Primary class that she would turn down that drink. How much easier the situation would have been for her if she had long ago pictured in her mind what she would do in that kind of situation. Then those moments of indecision would never have happened—for the decision would have already been made.
The second story is about an intelligent secondary school girl named Joan. Joan was admired by her friends. She was given a scholarship to a well-known university far from her home. When Joan came home for Christmas that first year, her Latter-day Saint friends were a little concerned about her. When they asked her how she managed to maintain her standards among so many who didn’t have the same standards, she answered, “I used to try to explain that I didn’t smoke or drink because my church taught me not to. I finally got tired of all the explanations. Now I accept the drink, but I don’t drink it. I just walk around with the drink in my hand and finally pour it out somewhere.”
The end of this story is easily guessed. Before long, Joan left the Church. She had failed to decide ahead of time how she would react under pressure, and so she had to continually make the decision at the time of each experience. Unfortunately, the steady influence of those around her plus the pressure of her new environment was too much for her.
Practicing responses to temptations before they happen is like putting on a shield. It offers protection in the form of confidence. And it eases the torment of making a decision under pressure. A righteous commitment made months or even years before is the only acceptable answer at the time of decision. We reduce the power of temptation if we are committed to that which is righteous.
With what kind of commitments does this concept work? The answer is—all of them! Especially those that have to do with our eternal salvation—studying the scriptures, fulfilling our church assignments, magnifying the priesthood, being honest in school work, obeying the Word of Wisdom, exercising charity, being chaste. Deciding ahead of time our particular responses to particular situations can also help us in other areas in our lives, such as reaching goals, becoming professionally more prepared, or preparing to be better mothers and fathers.
When making a commitment to oneself, some find it helpful to write it down on paper or share it with a special friend or loved one. Even if he commitment is just quietly stored in the mind, it must be sincere and binding. In some cases, the commitment will be made with our Father in Heaven in humble prayer.
Among the many blessings given us by our Father in Heaven is the freedom of decision. We have the power to master ourselves; but self-mastery requires commitment. Making our commitments before the moments of decision arise and deciding how we will keep those commitments can help us endure to the end and gain eternal life. (See 2 Ne. 31:14–16, 19–20.)