“Decide to Decide,” Ensign, Oct. 1981, 72
Simply said, a commitment is a promise or pledge. The commitment may be made to the Lord, to another person—or to oneself. Keeping commitments is one of the surest signs of integrity and is essential to both spiritual progress and temporal success. Yet, in a world where we are constantly bombarded by temptation, commitments can sometimes be difficult to keep. Understanding how to make commitments and how to keep them can help us gain the strength to resist such temptations and guide both children and adults toward correct principles.
One way is to decide how to react in a given situation before the situation arises. Consider the following two stories:
A young Latter-day Saint girl graduated from high school and obtained employment as a private secretary in a large corporation. She was the only active LDS employee in her office. Months before the New Year the office was buzzing with talk of the annual New Year’s Eve party. Traditionally, the office closed early on New Year’s Eve, and a wild celebration went far into the night.
This young LDS girl was concerned about the party for a long time before it actually took place. She didn’t want to be a “spoil sport,” but this kind of celebration was not in keeping with her church standards. She contemplated calling in sick on December 31, but decided that being dishonest was not in keeping with her standards either. Her decision finally was to watch the dock closely. When the time neared for closing the office, she would quietly clear her desk, gather her things, and slip out before being noticed.
However, when the time came to do this, the group began to gather before she could complete her plan, and she found herself in the middle of the office party.
She made a second plan. She would stand off to the side. When the party got going, she would slip out unnoticed. However, this was not to be. Before long a group of her fellow employees had gathered around her, prodding and teasing.
“Take just one drink.”
“No one will know.”
“No one should go through life without at least tasting liquor.”
Her refusals and pleas were in vain. Frustration mounting, she thought, “I’ll drink this drink, then get out of here.”
She held the glass up, but she could not drink it. She remembered the Primary teacher who had taught her the Word of Wisdom several years earlier. At that moment her ordeal was over. Handing the glass to someone, she firmly said, “No. I don’t drink. I never have, and I don’t intend to start today.” Pushing her way through the group, she picked up her coat and left.
Although this young lady didn’t realize it, she had made the decision years earlier in a Primary class that she would turn down that drink. How much easier the situation would have been for her if she had consciously imagined what she would do in that kind of situation. Then those moments of indecision would never have happened—for the decision would have already been made.
The second story concerns an intelligent high school girl, admired by her peers. This lovely girl received a scholarship to a prominent West Coast university. When she came home for Christmas that first year, her friends perceived trouble ahead. When asked about maintaining her standards among so many who didn’t have the same standards, she answered, “I used to try to explain that I didn’t smoke or drink because my church taught me not to. I finally got tired of all the explanations. Now I accept the drink, but I don’t drink it. I just walk around with the drink in my hand and finally pour it into a plant somewhere.”
The end of this story is easily guessed. Before long, this young lady left the Church. She had failed to decide ahead of time how she would react under peer pressure, and so she had to continually make the decision at the time of each experience. Unfortunately, the steady influence of her peers plus the pressure of her new environment was too much for her.
Rehearsing responses to temptations before they occur is like putting on a shield. It offers protection in the form of confidence. And it eases the torment of making a decision under pressure. The commitment was made months or even years before, and that is the only acceptable answer at the time of decision. We reduce the power of temptation if we are committed to that which is righteous.
With what kind of commitments does this concept work? The answer is—all of them! Especially those that have to do with our eternal salvation—studying the scriptures, fulfilling our church assignments, magnifying the priesthood or our callings as parents, keeping the Word of Wisdom, exercising charity, being chaste. Deciding ahead of time our particular responses to particular situations can also help us in other areas in our lives, such as reaching goals, becoming professionally more proficient, becoming better homemakers, or maintaining a physical fitness program. I recently lost twenty-five pounds using this approach—the only thing that’s ever really worked for me. This concept can be especially helpful to youth.
In making a commitment to oneself, some find it helpful to put the commitment in writing or share it with a special friend or loved one. Even if the commitment is just quietly stored in the mind, it must be sincere and binding. In some cases, the commitment will be made with our Father in Heaven in humble prayer.
Among the many blessings given us by our Father in Heaven is the freedom of decision. We have the power to master ourselves; but self-mastery requires commitment. Making our commitments before the moments of decision arise and deciding how we will keep those commitments can help us endure to the end and gain eternal life. (See 2 Ne. 31:14–16, 19–20.)