Social Question

rojo's avatar

If you make a promise to someone and that person dies, are you still bound by that promise?

Asked by rojo (24159points) October 29th, 2014

Obviously it no longer matters to the deceased so should it continue to matter to you?

Does it make a difference to your answer if the promise affects other people or lifeforms not directly involved in, or even privy to, the original discourse?

What about if it had to do with something that could benefit you if you were not bound to the promise?

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24 Answers

Pachy's avatar

I consider that a matter of personal conscience.

marinelife's avatar

It matters to the maker of the promise. Promises should be kept.

zenvelo's avatar

It depends on the nature of the promise.

“I promise not to date your old girlfriend”. Ceases once the party dies.

“Mom, I promise to always visit dad’s grave on his birthday.” Good for as long as you can make it.

kritiper's avatar

Yes. A promise made to another is a promise made to yourself.

Jaxk's avatar

Sounds like you’re playing a little fast and loose with your ethics. A promise doesn’t mean I promise you’ll never find out. If I take @zenvelo‘s example and promise I’ll never your old girlfriend. Is it OK as long as you never find out that I’m the one that got here pregnant? Don’t promise anything if you will start looking for a way out.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

If I make the promise, then it’s on me to keep it. Doesn’t matter what happens to them. My word has to be good with me.

Winter_Pariah's avatar

If you’ve bothered to make a commitment of value to yourself (not just the other person), might as well keep it. If it isn’t of value you to you when you make it, why bother making it unless it’s for good old misdirection and/or deceit?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Depends on if the promise would also affect the people who are still living. And it depends on the promise. Sometimes promises CAN’T be kept if the person dies.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It certainly depends on circumstances. If you promised to take the dead woman to dinner or return a borrowed book, only you can determine if the benefits of the promise transfer to her heir or heirs. Promises are about one’s moral compass, but common sense should figure in there as well.

flutherother's avatar

I would feel even more obliged to keep the promise if the person died. If they are still living you can give them an excuse but there are no excuses if they are dead.

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @zenvelo answer. It depends on the nature of the promise.
If I die and default on my bills, well…I’m dead, can’t get water from a rock.
Most contracts cease to be viable after death, so, it would be a matter of personal choice and sentiment.

dappled_leaves's avatar

It might depend on the nature of the promise, I suspect. I mean, if he said, “I need you to promise never to tell anyone about this” and you agree, then you should keep that promise even after his death.

I’m struggling to think of an example of a promise that might not be expected to be honoured after the person’s death, though.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, to take them to a ball game, or on a cruise, or to dinner or something that requires their physical presence.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

It would depend on the promise and why it was made. If I owed them money, and it was between us, I’d pay it to the family. If I’d made a promise to give their child a job or something, I still would. If I’d promised to go sky diving with them because we’d both always said we’d do it, I’d honour their memory and still do it, for them and imagine them there with me. If it was a promise to attend a ball game or something and I wasn’t really that bothered, probably not.

Depends on the promise, why I made it and what it meant to my friend or their family.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit You could always throw a check in the casket when they bury them.

Pandora's avatar

As @zenvelo stated it really depends on the promise. Sometimes you have to promise something to someone dying in order to give them peace of mind, but it is a promise you may not be able to fulfill.

I had an old boyfriend who’s father adored me. He ask me to promise to watch over his son forever. I told his mom I could not promise that. We were only dating. His mom asked me to promise because he wanted to know that his son will marry me some day after he was gone, and that I would be there to take care of him. So I reluctantly said yes. I felt horrible for lying to a dying man but he was so much calmer after I told him that.

Obviously I wasn’t going to marry him to simply please his fathers dying wish.
However, if I made a promise I could keep. Then I would do my best to keep it. I made a promise to my dad before he died and I’m still keeping it to this day. There were times when I wish I never made the promise and other times I am glad I did and that he had faith in me to keep it. I’m glad I made the promise because it is one I would wish others would carry out for me in my stead when I am no longer around.

ibstubro's avatar

If I made that promise when the person was alive? Yes, I’m 97%. Even if I made the promise 20 years ago and my beliefs have changed. If my beliefs have changed, so be it.

3% is my very limited discretion.

rojo's avatar

What if you promised your father you would never put your mother in an assisted living facility but at this time, based on the best medical advice you can afford, it would be the best option for her?

Pandora's avatar

Is there a way she can get, around the clock care?
I look at it this way. If the person was still alive and they would’ve had to change their view on things, than it is not breaking a promise. The request was assuming that the person (your mom) would be able to manage without help. What does your mom want or think of the promise? If she wants to go than it isn’t breaking a promise. You are not sending her against her will.
Its a tough one. My FIL had a time in the hospital and then a long care facility. He was so depressed. He begged my husband to never let him go to a place like that again. He asked him to promise. It’s going to be tough if he gets sick again. It’s why I’m going to sign a DNR. after 75,

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

If going into an assisted care facility is the best thing for your mother, that’s what has to guide you. If you made such a promise, that promise was made based on information you and your father had at that time. Your responsibility now is to do the right thing for your mother and it might be that a care facility IS the best thing for her. I’d break the promise under such circumstances.

Katz22's avatar

It probably depends on the kind of person that you are, do you honor your promises or are you fickle and your promises mean nothing, you are as good as your word. If I promised a person something, I would honor that promise or I wouldn’t have made it in the first place.

ibstubro's avatar

Is your mother able to express an opinion @rojo? If so, what?

If this isn’t a theoretical question, we need more information to give advice.

rojo's avatar

@ibstubro at times she is but we truly cannot be certain of what is our reality and what is hers. However, based on pre-dementia conversations, I can say that she does not not want to be put in a “home” and that she considers any kind of care facility a “home”.
But the question was not really about this, it was more along the lines of is a promise given TO someone or BY someone and does it matter if the person it was given to is no longer in the picture. My personal opinion is that the person giving the promise is the one it is for and the one bound to it but I wanted to get the thoughts of others.

ibstubro's avatar

If someone is financially able to keep her home with around the clock care, That’s what I would do, @rojo.

Alternately, you could argue that your mother is no longer the woman your father knew. Were he alive, what do you believe he would do? I have to believe that he would ultimately do what was best for your mother, regardless.

I get your question now, and I have to say no, you’re not bound to a promise to a dead person. You are alive, and circumstance constantly changes. At the time the promise was made, the promise made was perfectly reasonable between the two of you. And then there was one.

Great question. I’ve gained a life lesson from it. Thanks.

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