An Eclectic Human
A newsletter about design, community, and being a human

1.15 People who can be small and humble

Some of the best things in life come out of commitment.

Summer camp is one example. Erin Anacker described it this way in an Uncommon dispatch last year:

Every summer, from 4th grade through high school, I attended camp. There is something particularly magical about being thrown together with a bunch of strangers for an entire week where you spend nearly every minute together. […] In my experience, situations where strangers come together and commit their time and energy to one another often produce the greatest experiences of human connection.

College is similar. Most of my close friends today are from my first year or two of college when I had countless “repeated, unplanned interactions” with them in “a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other”. That’s how Rebecca Adams describes conditions sociologists believe to be necessary to forming friendships (which we discussed a bit back in December). Those friendships developed in an atmosphere of mutual commitment—we were more or less stuck together for several months, whether we liked it or not. Especially when I lived in an old-fashioned dormitory and ate in a cafeteria, it was difficult to avoid people, but it was also rewarding to cultivate relationships. We only had each other to rely on. Sometimes that went badly and sometimes it was amazing.

Erin went on to say this:

[My husband] mentioned a hypothetical scenario about a big decision he is weighing, and I told him, “At some point, you just have to make a commitment. When you commit to something, you are much more likely to give it your all and figure out a way to make it work.”

Deciding to commit to something can be a powerful motivator. I often think about this in terms of my marriage. My theology asserts that marriage can and should last beyond our mortal human existence. The longer I’m married the more I realize just how much work it takes to have a successful marriage. But because of the commitments I made, my default attitude is not one of seeking to get as much as I can out of the relationship before it expires, but rather seeking to give as much as I can because I expect it to last.

Kelly M. Flanagan wrote a piece that has shaped my thinking not just about marriage but about friendships and commitments in general, “Marriage Is For Losers“:

The third kind of marriage is not perfect, not even close. But a decision has been made, and two people have decided to love each other to the limit, and to sacrifice the most important thing of all – themselves. In these marriages, losing becomes a way of life, a competition to see who can listen to, care for, serve, forgive, and accept the other the most. The marriage becomes a competition to see who can change in ways that are most healing to the other, to see who can give of themselves in ways that most increase the dignity and strength of the other. These marriages form people who can be small and humble and merciful and loving and peaceful.

So to all of you, my friends, I want to say thank you for what you do for me. I’ll keep giving what I can to make our lives better.

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Have you had an experience that taught you the value of commitment?

—Steve