There have been a number of news items recently that are about people making promises and then being accused of breaking them.
We have the Syrian Government's ceasefire and withdrawal undertakings to Kofi Annan being described as 'relatively respected' - by which is meant that government forces have stopped firing (mostly) but not withdrawn. We have North Korea launching a satellite (or not, as it turned out) and the world community being convinced it was a missile test in breach of a 'no missile tests in exchange for food' deal. We also have the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt proposing a candidate for the presidency after they promised that they would not do so. Closer to home, we're resigned to our politicians breaking election pledges, whatever party they are from.
Surely people should keep their promises? However, Caroline Eade's Cambridge Paper 'Promises, promises' (December 2007) is sobering:
In 2006, Churchill Insurance published the results of its research into promises in Britain, claiming that 6.5 million women and 4.2 million men in Britain break a promise every 24 hours..... If breaking promises is so widespread, what does it mean to make a promise in the first place? Is a promise anything more than a vague statement of intent?
Caroline points out that not only can a relationship be forged by a promise, but also the very identity of the parties is transformed in the process. This is especially true in the keeping of a promise when so many are broken.
So how good are we at keeping promises?