My favourite parable in The Bible has always been the one about two sons (Matthew 21:28-32).
The parable tells of how their father asked his sons to go and work in his vineyard. The first one says no, but later on he changes his mind and goes. The second son readily says that he will go, but never goes. I can remember how surprised I was when I read in verse 31 that it was actually the first son who had obeyed his father! My young mind couldn't understand how his response translated to obedience. He had blatantly told his father that he wouldn't go to the vineyard to work.
But I had missed the point: in the end, he is the one who did exactly what his father had asked him to do.
I first heard this parable when I was very young (I can't even remember exactly how old I was), and even though I didn't understand why, it resonated with me even then. It's one of those stories that has stuck with me throughout my life.
It's only now that I realize why it spoke and still speaks to me so much. I have been in both the first son's and the second son's shoes. Many a time I have said to someone, "We should definitely try out that restaurant one day", or "We should definitely hang out soon". And I assumed that, because this person knew that it's something I wanted to do with them, I didn't really have to follow through. Their knowing that I wanted to do it was enough.
As the saying goes, 'It's the thought that counts, right?'
A friend busted a myth for me not so long ago, and that was when I realized that there are so many of them going around that over the years, we have come to believe them to be truths. Well, allow me to bust another myth for you: The thought doesn't count if it doesn't translate to action.
If we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that when we actually want to do something, we simply do it. Anything less than that is proof that we either don't want to do it - or can't - and, therefore, shouldn't be giving people the impression that we can and will.
The parable I mentioned above highlights this point beautifully. It's unclear why the second son didn't honour his word to his father. But what is clear is that he shouldn't have given his father the impression that he'd work in his vineyard when he wasn't going to.
It's also unclear why the first son said that he wouldn't work in his father's vineyard. But it's clear that he felt differently about it later and went to work in the vineyard.
In conclusion, we can learn something from both sons. We should only make promises that we mean to keep - or not make promises at all.