Monday, March 29, 2010

Follow through

People who promise things that they never give are like clouds and wind that bring no rain. –Proverbs 25:14 (GNT)

When I was in high school, my father took up golf. He wasn’t an avid golfer, though—just took up the sport to calm his jangled nerves. Daddy’s girl that I was, I signed up for golfing lessons the school offered. Between my father and the golf instructor, I learned two things were vital to success: correct form and follow through.

“Follow through” means “to carry something through to its completion.” In sports, to follow through means to complete the swing or motion after the ball has been hit or released.

Why is following through important, when the ball is no longer in your control? I don’t understand the physics of it, but I do understand that if you don’t follow through, the ball won’t go where you want it to. When my son was a baseball pitcher, for instance, he would neglect to follow through on his pitching motion when he was tired. The result was that he didn’t hit his spots—or, in lay language, the ball didn’t go where he wanted it to go. The same principle applies to swinging a golf club or a baseball bat. The follow through is crucial to a solid hit.

Following through isn’t important only in sports, however. It’s important in life itself.

Ever have someone promise you something and not give you what was promised? I’m not just talking businesses, manufacturers or salespersons here. Or have someone borrow something and fail to return it by the time he said he would? Or give you a time to meet you and show up late—or not show up at all? It’s no fun being on the wrong end of a false promise. It breaks trust, poisons relationships and ruins character.

But what if you’re the one who’s given your word?

“Promise me something,” someone urges you.

“OK,” you say without thinking, when the correct response should have been, “What do you want me to promise?”

Sometimes we make false promises because we want to look good or we don’t want to disappoint others. I’ve often made pledges to organizations (mostly those that phone me with their spiel), then never followed through. Most of the time I wanted to give what I promised, but when the time came, the money was needed elsewhere. Eventually I learned to ask them to mail me the material and I would consider it. People pleasers like me have difficulty saying no. I actually convinced myself I would make good on my pledge.

Sometimes we make false promises to get someone off our backs—like our spouse or our kids, who know what buttons to push when they want something. (That goes two ways, by the way.) Sometimes, like Peter in today’s reading, we really mean it in the heat of the moment, but then reality sets in and we balk. Or we accept an invitation and then call with excuses when something better comes up—or even, worse, we don’t call at all.

Or we vow to forsake all others, and to love and cherish, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, and then break that vow.

Jesus said we will give account for every idle, or careless, word we utter (Matthew 12:36–37).

Not following through on our word not only casts a shadow on our reputation, character and integrity, but it also hurts others, especially those closest to us—those we really don’t want to hurt. Perhaps we gave our word, whether or not we meant it at the time, because we didn’t want to hurt someone.

But which is worse? Believing a lie told by someone you trust (even if it’s told “for your own good”) or hearing the truth spoken in love? Which is harder to deal with—sincerity or insincerity?

My parents taught me to follow through on my promises, no matter the cost. The cost of not following through, though, is far greater. I want to be known as a person who keeps her word. I want people to trust me and believe me. It has to do with those old-fashioned things like principle and honor and integrity.

On the links of life, always remember to follow through—it’s the only way to put power in your swing.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 141:3). Amen.

Special-Tea: Matthew 26:31–35

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