Broken Promises

Let’s Talk Opinion

“An unkept promise is as bad as a slap in the face. An honoured promise is better than an expensive bottle of perfume.”

In conversation with Mottos For Success:

I ‘liked’ this post because it made me think about the importance of keeping promises and the impact that doing or not doing so has on our lives.

In fact, I think the quote itself is rather flimsy.

A broken promise is far worse than a slap in the face.

When you enter the institution of marriage, that is a promise you make. If you betray that promise and cheat on your partner, then a slap in the face doesn’t even begin to describe it.

When you borrow money from someone, promising to return it, and then fail to do so… Say that you end up bankrupting that person, losing them their house, their livelihood, or worse. Slap in the face?

When a child is abandoned – that too constitutes a promise broken, whether that promise was made implicitly or explicitly. No. Slap in the face is simply not an appropriate simile for situations where the promise broken is truly of some importance to the parties involved.

And to put the idea of honouring a promise in the same context as a bottle of perfume?

There must be something lost in translation here, because since when did perfume begin to mean quite so much to society that it becomes a point of comparison for the keeping of a promise?

The keeping of promises is the basis of law. It is what makes society function. Without a system that ensures promises are kept, there would be no notion of ownership, no concept of private property, and therefore no modern social arrangements.

The quote is quaint. It may have worked in a time long past. But unfortunately, beyond its value as a window into long-gone worldviews, I struggle to see its relevance for today.


“Is this what sadness is all about? Is it what comes over us when beautiful memories shatter in hindsight because the remembered happiness fed not just on actual circumstances but on a promise that was not kept?”
―     Bernhard SchlinkThe Reader

“In the first place, you shouldn’t believe in promises. The world is full of them: the promises of riches, of eternal salvation, of infinite love. Some people think they can promise anything, others accept whatever seems to guarantee better days ahead… Those who make promises they don’t keep end up powerless and frustrated, and exactly the fate awaits those who believe promises.”
―     Paulo CoelhoThe Devil and Miss Prym    

“We’re always being made promises… You make them yourself and you listen to others giving theirs… Life is quite simply a matter of cruising along in your own little boat through a constantly changing but never-ending stream of promises. And how
many do we remember? We forget the ones we would like to remember, and we remember the ones we’d prefer to forget.”
―     Henning MankellItalian Shoes    


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19 thoughts on “Broken Promises

  1. Pingback: Vic Briggs, Agent 009 of Her Majesties Majestical Service (Parody) | Andy Kaufman's Kavalkade Krew

    • Yes, Kavalkade. This certainly is a case of broken promises. I cannot fully understand how this came to happen. The British welfare state is one of the best functioning security nets in the world, bar Scandinavia. I will be keeping abreast of developments and news regarding this issue. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
      Warm regards,

      • The London Pro Bono Bar was contacted by the lady today. So I hope she is able to receive some relief from legal bills in the short term.

        In the long term I’m going to kick butt! Charge!

        OK, now I’m really, really going to go to bed. My dog better not be on muh pillow…

      • I hope so too. It seems incredible that this should’ve ever become an issue, that measures were not taken in time to resolve it. Again, thank you for writing about it and raising awareness.

  2. deep thoughts right there.
    although i understand that the quote isn’t meant to be taken literally. the stinging slap of realisation of an unfulfilled ‘fate’; the sweet scent of contentment due to a fulfilled oath.
    obviously in a literal sense, no bottle of perfume can compare to the glory of words honoured, nor can a slap in the face equate to the loss of something held dearly in the heart.
    i prefer to take the quote as an analogy (if that is the right word).

  3. Such an important value and so few of us think about its significance. Doing what you way you will do is the basis of trust and as you say, law. It is also the foundation the group and society. Thoughtful post!

  4. Oh dear! Vicki,I’d like to live an hour in your brain 🙂
    A promise is like good intentions, we all claim to have it, but when our spoken works runs away with the wind;blame unforeseen circumstances.

    The quotes are hilarious, not to be taken literally I think,but still, it irks the mind how as a people, we have become complacent with our words. It’s like those who swear by God,their moms, dead fathers etc… many times you find its all bullocks!lol

    I often try to use the ” I will try to or I don’t know when I will do so or so” To me, a promise is an absolute, many do not do absolutes very well.

    I believe you have a point in bringing the law into this…it’s seen from the every top of government, to parental formations. Politicians and governments promise heaven and earth and soon develop amnesia the minute they are in power. We lack accountability in many offices of command and rule and like a vicious cycle, it continues.

    In my culture, the old ones always say “lets see what tomorrow brings” ,then they make all efforts to solve or resolve the issues. They always say ” Don’t tell me lies with words you may not eat when the sun comes up”

    • Dear Dotta,
      Thank you for a wonderful comment. I like your comparison of a promise with good intentions, and I certainly hope that in most cases at all those who make promises genuinely intend to keep them, although of course there are those who hold their word cheaply and break it as soon as it is no longer convenient to keep it.
      Regarding politicians and their promises, there is a good quote by Jarod Kintz in his This Book is Not for Sale that I think sums this up neatly: “Every politician has a promising career. Unfortunately, most of them do not keep those promises.”
      I agree with you regarding taking care when making promises, and better by far to say “I will try to or I don’t know when I will do so or so” – as you do – than make a promise that then it is impossible to keep.
      And “I’d like to live an hour in your brain” must be the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid me. Thank you so much. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Some are more equal than others | vic briggs

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