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3 Reasons We Fear Commitment

Recently I read “Dwelling in Possibilities” by Mark Edmundson in The Chronicle of Higher Education. It talks about young adults and their desire for flexibility.

I’m sure you’ve noticed it: Whether it’s RSVPing to a party, signing up for a missions trip six months in advance, or committing to anything “lifelong,” our generation is often loathe to make decisions when presented with choices. Instead, we rely on the most frustrating of non-commitments: maybe.

The problem is a fear of commitment. People are scared to put their money where their mouth is, and it’s mostly (mostly) for three reasons.

1. Fear of being stuck

As the article says, our generation lives in a world of possibilities. The relative abundance of resources means that with our limited time, a commitment to one thing means a rejection of others, and this can feel like we’re constantly missing out on something better. For example, if I choose this event/job/relationship, all those other potentially better things out there are no longer an option.

With every decision, it feels like we give up an infinite other “what ifs.” This is potentially why the majority of people invited to Facebook events don’t respond.

This isn’t good. Apart from the fact it’s self-centered, it’s also an insult to the inviter. If a desire for the “what if” is your motivation behind your “maybe” or lack of response, you’re essentially saying that person is not a priority. And you don’t care how your lack of response will affect his or her preparations. I mean, if they’re not a priority, you could always say no instead of leaving them hanging.

Commitment is a vital and necessary part of growing up. We can’t have it all, and that’s just something we have to live with here on earth.

2. Fear of offending someone

Another reason people might be afraid of giving definitive answers, especially in church, is the fear of offending someone. Offense has become a huge taboo in our culture, especially in the church, and it shows. Whether it’s saying, “Oh I’m busy; maybe next time?” when turning down an unwanted suitor or the infinitely useful “let me pray about it” when declining a service opportunity, Christians are terrible at saying no.

We need to stop that — seriously. If you don’t want to do something, just say so. Nicely, sure. But clearly, too. You can’t please everyone, and that’s OK. Even Jesus couldn’t, and I don’t think He wanted to.

3. Fear of failure

Of all the reasons why people can hesitate in making a commitment, this is probably the most legitimate. In Scripture we’re called to count the cost of anything to which we commit to, and it’s wise to make sure that we’re not giving flippant answers and then changing them last minute. (“Oh, I’m sorry I can’t make it to your party tonight. Something [better] came up!” Not cool.)

However, if this prudence is not followed with careful deliberation and then making a decision, it’s merely selfish laziness. Ninety percent of the time it’s not a question of “can you” but rather “will you.” It’s like being afraid to commit to read your Bible because you’re scared you won’t be able to follow through. You just need to grow up and do it.

The other 10 percent of the time we’re asked to commit to things, we simply can’t be sure we’ll do. That could be a job, a ministry position, or a marriage. For me, it was when I was first asked to be a youth pastor. I knew that I couldn’t fully count the cost without actually doing it and that there was a possibility that I might fail. This is when God can use our commitment to grow our faith and show himself strong. For He promises in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Which of these three fears do you struggle with most?


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