Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Should you ever break a commitment? If so, under what circumstances?

Asked by wundayatta (58586points) March 10th, 2010

For me this is about balancing personal needs against your word and/or against the responsibilities you have voluntarily taken on. At some point, the damage you do to yourself by keeping the commitment becomes very large. Sometimes too large to bear. Although I think some people still keep to their commitments even if it kills them. Is that reasonable? Why would someone go that far?

Assuming it isn’t reasonable to die for your commitments, is there a general principal we can use to decide when it is time to break the commitment?

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27 Answers

JeffVader's avatar

I think it would be valid to break a commitment if, for example, you were unaware fully of what you had commited to. Also if what was expected of you was beyond reasonable. All rather subjective things though.

whyigottajoin's avatar

This is a though one because the commitment and breaking off it, always goes together with a situation. And the situation can vary alot, so it’s hard to determine a gereral principal.
I wouldn’t want to break a commitment, but when my life would be at risk then I would have to choose to stay alive instead of staying with my commitment. I’m too young to die lol.

Sophief's avatar

I don’t know what kind of commitment you are meaning so therefore I don’t know how to answer. Is it possible to give an example maybe?

stardust's avatar

If a commitment is putting my own needs in jeoprady, then I’ll sometimes break it. Of course, it depends on the commitment, the situation, etc.

davidbetterman's avatar

Yes. If you are the USA and the commitment is a treaty with Native American Indians (why break a streak and actually keep a promise with them?).

susanc's avatar

Never without renegotiating.

zephyr826's avatar

If the commitment is causing harm to you or your family, then it’s the responsible choice to break the commitment. That being said, you should make every effort to work things out so no one is left in the lurch. You shouldn’t just walk out without providing a back-up plan.

stump's avatar

If a commitment grows or changes, or if it was entered into under scant or false information, then I feel justified in negotiating a new agreement. But if the commitment was to a person (as opposed to an institution), It would be much harder for me to break. Lack of integrity is very bad for the soul. I try to make as few real commitments as possible.

CMaz's avatar

Every circumstances is different. But simply… Because I do. And, ya just have to get over it.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

When a committment infringes on my physical well-being, then it’s time to quit.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

You keep your commitments when:
1. You entered into them of your own free will;
2. The other party (or parties) maintain their end of the deal.

Otherwise you’re a welsher. You can try to rationalize “Oh, I didn’t know it was going to be such a long commitment” or “I didn’t know it would be this involved” or any number of other “I didn’t know” reasons—but that’s just wrong. It’s up to you to know what you’re getting into.

If the other party wants to renegotiate the commitment and you want the same, then that’s a possible option to reexamine the whole deal and maybe get out of it—if the other party also agrees. But a contract is a contract.

marinelife's avatar

You can opt out of a commitment, which is not the same as breaking one.

You do this by going to the person you made the commitment to and saying (ahead of time!):

“My circumstances have changed. I know I told you that I would do x, but now y has happened, and I am not going to be able to fulfill my commitment. I’m sorry for any trouble this will cause you.”

liminal's avatar

As has been said, knowing when or if to break a commitment is subjective and particular. It seems that breaking a commitment often comes down to wanting to honor a different one more. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it isn’t.

If I promise my child ice-cream after the play-ground and he breaks his arm on the play ground we are going to the hospital first. Circumstances change, people change, and it makes sense that our commitments be as dynamic.

JeffVader's avatar

@liminal & you didn’t stop off first for the Mr Whippy?! What kind of parent are you ;)

susanc's avatar

@marinelife: That’s what I mean by “renegotiating”. I would add: “I’d like to work with you to come up with something I can do that would keep this from messing you up.”

Just_Justine's avatar

I think any commitment no matter how well intended that causes you pain or ill health should be broken. Because if you don’t you are no longer committed to yourself.

marinelife's avatar

@susanc Good addition. Thanks.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t break commitments unless there is an emergency.

Trillian's avatar

When the other person in the commitment has broken faith with me. All bets are off. When I find out that the other person was lying. When I find that the other person was not, in fact,committed to the things I was working towards.
I have goals that I want to accomplish with my life. I can’t allow another person to sabotage them because they can’t follow through. I’m better off alone.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

There’s no absolute answer that covers this because it is such a broad topic.

Some commitments like to a bad marriage need to be broken while commitments to your kids are lifelong

I need clarification on specific commitments if I can even come close to giving a useful answer.

Until then as accuarate I can get is “sometimes”.

YARNLADY's avatar

I wouldn’t break a commitment unless forced to by circumstances, and even then, I would do everything possible to make other arrangements. I once went to Lake Tahoe and got caught by an unexpected snow storm. I had to call people who were expecting me and let them know I was stranded, and my son missed a day of school.

Not that we suffered too much. We sat in the hotel hot tub and watched the snow fall in the parking lot, with a cup of chocolate supplied by the management.

Val123's avatar

I think @Cloverfield hit the nail on the head. “You want to go out this Friday?” “Sure!” (That’s kind of a commitment.) The next day, “We’re going to rob a bank on Friday!” Time to break said commitment. That was simplistic but…yeah.

talljasperman's avatar

when a higher commitment takes priority

JeffVader's avatar

@Val123 Thank you…. every now’n’then I do accidently say something sensible :)

marszbar's avatar

Of course, there is always an exception to any rule, but in everyday family or work situations a commitment should be honored. (that’s period!) A commitment is an agreement to do something for another or with another. As such, once you agree, you have made a verbal contract to the other person on which he or she is relying. There are scant ethical reasons for taking back your agreement with another person. There is no higher priority than keeping your word. Trust is based on belief.

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