Why we don’t like commitment

August 10, 2010

“He can’t handle commitment.”
“I’m not ready to commit.”
“She’s commitment-phobic.”


Ever heard any of these?


Think about this for a moment… Perhaps there’s not a problem with the person. Perhaps there’s a problem with the word…


Have you ever said to yourself, “I am so depressed.”?
This statement literally says you equals depressed. They are one and the same. It’s as if your identity is the depression. It would be much more accurate to say “I feel so depressed.”  It would be even more accurate to say, “I feel what I am labeling depression.”


The word “depression” has a tremendous amount of baggage to it, from social taboo, to a clinical state of incapacitation.  And yet we use it so liberally!


A friend of mine once heard me say I was depressed and asked me to consider a different word. He said, “Try saying, ‘I’m in a dark night right now.'”  I said it and immediately my view shifted as I could see the state as temporary (since night always passes into day) and I could find the art and poetry of being in the shadows, where perhaps I could find something hidden and interesting about myself.  It was a total turnaround.


So back to the idea of commitment…


What if we replaced that word with devotion?


I was struck by this word when my former girlfriend told me how she thought Thievery Corporations’ Radio Retaliation is a very devotional album. I thought, Wow – it’s such a beautiful word.  So I looked it up. Here’s the definition:




  • profound dedication; consecration. 
  • earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
  • an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.
  •    religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.

Now look at that in contrast to a few definitions from this word:



  • a pledge or promise; obligation: We have made a commitment to pay our bills on time.
  • perpetration or commission, as of a crime.
  • consignment, as to prison.
  • confinement to a mental institution or hospital: The psychiatrist recommended commitment.
  • an order, as by a court or judge, confining a person to a mental institution or hospital.


“Devotion” is a deeply motivated choice. “Commitment” is an obligation or a prison. 

Is it any wonder so many of us shy away from “commitment”?