by Ashley Lister
Commitment. Commitment. [Ashley chews thoughtfully on the end of his pen]. Commitment. I have to be honest and admit that this week’s topic has not been an easy one for me to write about because I don’t like the word commitment. I don’t use the word commitment very often, mainly because I can never remember how many letter ‘m’s or letter ‘t’s it contains. If I have to express a thought or opinion about such an abstract concept, I prefer to use the word responsibility. A commitment and a responsibility are vaguely synonymous: always bearing in mind that no two words are truly synonymous because of etymology, connotation and denotation. But, if I had a choice between the two, I would always choose responsibility over commitment.
Responsibility has several advantages over the word commitment.
Primarily, responsibility is easier to spell. There are no stupid double letters hiding in responsibility and every letter sounds exactly like it reads on the page. Re-spon-sib-il-it-y. For this reason alone, responsibility is a superior word to commitment.
Secondly, a responsibility is something I can possess, rather than something I have to construct. If you consider the language involved, I have a responsibility, or I can accept a responsibility, but I have to make a commitment. Being a lazy bastard, this state of affairs works perfectly for me. I prefer things I can have to things I have to make. Why would I waste my time making something when I can take something that already exists?
I lost my mobile phone recently. I went out to the shop and bought a new one. I now have a new mobile phone. Imagine how difficult my life would have become if I had to make a mobile phone! I’d still be fiddling with the silly little wires and trying to work out how to make a keypad.
So, like many people, I prefer things I can possess to things I have to construct. As the above illustrates, this applies to everything from abstract concepts (religions, philosophical outlooks, political tendencies etc) through to material possessions (mobile phones, pizzas, cars etc). No one ever makes a responsibility. Responsibilities are prefabricated and come to us already manufactured. We might take on another responsibility; we might be given some extra responsibilities: but no one ever makes a responsibility.
Third: commitment has connotations of religious overtones, and I regularly get down on my knees and pray that my writing never contains religious overtones. Commitments are (most often) made in church. They invariably appear alongside scary nouns such as pledge, promise and vow, another series of words that need to come with self-assembly instructions because you have to make every one of them. Also, particularly when the religious connotations are involved, there are rumours of hellfire, brimstone and all kinds of terribleness for those who break a commitment.
Responsibilities don’t come with such drawbacks. If you can’t make a responsibility, you sure as hell can’t break one. Admittedly, responsibilities can be overlooked, shirked or forgotten, but no one has ever been threatened with hellfire and brimstone for shirking, forgetting or overlooking.
So, this week, instead of writing about commitment, I’m writing about responsibility.
Responsibility. Responsibility. [Ashley chews thoughtfully on the end of his pen]. Responsibility. I have to be honest and admit that this week’s topic has not been an easy one for me to write about…