Commitment leery?

| June 3, 2015 | 0 Comments

Ever been invited to an event — dinner out, an educational opportunity or entertainment of some kind — and responded hesitantly, not because you were already booked that day but because, well, something better might come along?

Me, too.

We seem to have trouble making commitments nowadays.

Committing ourselves looms as a risk — a risk that we might not be happy with the choice we make and that we might be missing out on something that would make us “truly” happy, or at least happier.

Perhaps that’s why we marvel at the longevity of others who have persevered in their commitments.

We admire couples in lengthy marriages, folks like those who will be honored June 6 at the annual Archdiocesan Marriage Day Celebration. The fact that 40-50 percent of marriages today end in divorce makes it seem heroic to have kept promises for so long to love and cherish one another ‘til death do you part.

Catholics esteem our clergy and religious who have kept their vows for many years. In an age when people tend to change careers and jobs regularly, it’s remarkable that Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn has been a priest for 55 years.

The good archbishop would be among the first to remind us that there are any number of priests and sisters — sisters especially — who have served even longer.

But why?

Complicated questions

Why, when we so value the commitments that others make, is it so difficult at times for us?

Why have the number of priestly ordinations in the U.S. dropped from 994 in 1960 to 494 in 2014?

Why, over that same 50-year time span, are there now twice as many Americans age 25 and older who have never married?

Why, in just the past seven years according to a Pew Research Center study, has the median age for a first marriage gone from 20 to 27 for women and from 23 to 29 for men?

Answers are surely as complicated as the questions are numerous.

Which is why you may have chuckled as I did when I read Brad Allen’s interesting piece in the Star Tribune May 17 about a different study that tied the current marriage rate to the financial climate.

“Single adults,” Allen wrote, “can go into the market for everything from meals (dining out) and companionship (dating, going to the bars), to laundry and housekeeping. While it sounds terribly unromantic, the researchers’ premise is that two people will set up housekeeping and get married when the costs of staying single outweigh the benefits.”

Are you joining me about now in echoing the song lyrics — “What about love?” While shedding light on the research, for which Allen deserves a tip of the hat, his piece doesn’t dismiss the possibility of love being a factor in the decision to marry, and that’s also to his credit.

A topic for follow-up research, and not just for young adults, might ask, “What about commitment?” As much as we admire those who make commitments for their faithfulness, what is it that we fear? Is it risking rejection or criticism? Is it a fear of taking on responsibility or liability? Do we not want to be obligated or tied down? Are we waiting for something better to come along?

Courage to choose

On the “For Your Marriage” blog, the Catholic bishops of the United States offer a view through a Catholic lens of the commitment a couple makes in deciding whether or not to wed, but it works for all kinds of commitments:

“Commitment is a choice to give up choices. Although this might at first sound limiting, it actually brings great freedom and depth. No longer does the committed person need to weigh which person or way of life will bring more happiness. Once committed, all one’s energy goes into making this commitment work.”

And then there’s this from Sandra Schneiders’ book “Selling All”:

“Commitment is both the highest achievement of and the greatest challenge to freedom that we face. Making a life commitment . . . requires enormous courage but also allows for the expression of a love that knows no bounds.”

What about love indeed!

Zyskowski is former editor and associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit.

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Category: Commentary