Eustathia (yoos-tay’-thi-a): Promising constancy in purpose and affection.

Love is like a three-dollar bill that you can actually spend. You can buy love’s fruits—my favorite is passion fruit. Ha ha! But the three dollar dimension is a little wonky. It manifests itself as promises that may or may not be sincere. How do you judge sincerity? No matter what the promiser’s track record is, things change. And since the motive for a given promise is more important than the promise, and since it can’t be readily observed, you might as well be dangling over the pit of hell as take a promise at face value.

I, for one, can’t keep a promise for very long. It’s not that I lie about promises, it’s just that I can’t keep them. Most of my lies run along three separate paths. the first is lying to please people. For example, my little brother may ask me if I like him. I don’t like him at all. He treats me badly—he hits me on the back of the head for no reason, sometimes 5 or 6 times per day. He hits on my girlfriend, he steals my money, and blames me for the bad things he does. So, I lie about liking him so I can avoid confrontation. I say, “I like you so much. You’re so cool I’ll always like you.” My second reason for lying is to get out of trouble. My answer to ”Did you do that?” If it was bad, I answer “No” so quickly that the question and answer meld! A couple of days ago, I drank 2 shots of my father’s Johnny Walker blue—one of the most expensive scotches in the world. Of course, he accused me of drinking it—I shot back “No, I promised faithfully to never steal your booze,” and told him to smell my breath. He did, and was grossed out to the max. He started choking and holding his throat. Then he said “Just kidding,” and laughed at me. I said, “That’s ok. You’re pretty funny & I’ll like you no matter what you do, except sell mom. Haha!” But it wasn’t ok. My lie bought me out of a yelling match and possible violence. Slick move!

Then there’s my girlfriend. I promised to love her forever, to never veer from the path of affection that I have plotted for us—to be forever faithful—as the sunrise. I also said there was a strong likelihood we would be married and raise a family. This paved a highway to “Flesh City.” It’s about making a promise that I can’t or won’t keep so I can get.something I want now. The problem with this is the inevitable leaving. It could take a couple of years, but it is bound to happen. Promising made in order to “get something” can lead to remorse, guilt, depression. However, you never know. You may actually “grow into” a bogus promise and create a better version of yourself. You may marry her. You may have a kid. You may not get divorced. But, although it’s possible, it’s never happened to me. If I collected all the tears cried at breakup time, I could make a saltwater aquarium.

So, promises are generally very fragile. We need them to move us into the future—like money, or contracts, or insurance policies, but promises that are not legally binding bear a degree of risk that makes them rarely worth promulgating. There’s a saying: “Promises are made to be broken.” The world spins. Things change. Here today, gone tomorrow. If you have to make a promise to somebody, ironically, it is because they do not trust you—and trust, like gold, is what backs a promise, and one’s judgment of its sincerity. And, trust is a social chimera woven out of avowals of motive and the ambiguity of deeds: there is no certain answer to what an action’s intent is. Remember, you kiss your lover and you kiss your grandmother. Two kisses—two different motives, two different qualities of affection (I hope).

In the end, you shouldn’t be faulted for failing to keep a promise. You have to be free to change your mind, especially if you change in a positive way that makes the promise no longer tenable.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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