Obligation ≠ Commitment

I met with Nai yesterday about her life-coach venture, Spirit Syrup. It was a business meeting, but her energy is so super cool that we ended up talking about a myriad of topics. Don’t take my word for it though. Check out Spirit Syrup’s site and Facebook presence and see for yourself.

One of the things we talked about was an incident during The Kid’s 16th birthday weekend. Said incident occurred Sunday and resulted in a mess of snot and tears Monday. I said some things and he said some things. When I retold the story, Nai brought up some good points. And she made me think about what was at the crux – this is one of my favorite words – of my feelings.

I do not like taking responsibility for a whole host of things.

That stung, but it was a necessary truth that had to be exposed.

Then she said something that I probably wouldn’t have put together for another six years: obligation and commitment are not synonymous.

It’s not that I don’t trust Nai, but I’ve been using these words as synonyms since forever. If this is indeed true, if these words are not synonymous, I need to unravel some stories I’ve been telling myself since time began. So I looked both words up in the good old Oxford College Dictionary.

Obligation: an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound

Commitment: the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.

Obligation ≠ Commitment

By these definitions, obligation is something I have to do (like breathing, eating, drinking water, bathing) to stay alive and commitment is something I choose to do to be happy while I’m alive.

Okay. This puts things in perspective. I started thinking in pairs:

I’m obligated to delivering cake orders because I’m committed to baking.

I’m obligated to pay child support because I’m committed to taking care of my kids.

I’m obligated not to eat like food will disappear at midnight because I’m committed to being healthy.

I’m obligated to be honest with The Hero because I’m committed to our relationship.

I’ve obligated to write several posts a week because I’m committed to being a good writer.

I’m obligated to taking care of my being because I’m committed to living a simple, full and joyous life.

These main aspects of my life feel different now that I’m not tethered to the idea that they are requirements and not choices. Seeing them from a point of power instead of oppression is freeing. And it allows me to plan. Some things I’ve been avoiding like money management, getting in touch with my spirituality again, and my bad eating habits lately don’t feel as terrifying. They’ve been reduced to surmountable issues that, with patience and guidance, I can resolve.


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