What To Do When Promises Are Broken

People make promises for all kinds of reasons. At many weddings, the couple promises to love each other until one of them dies. Politicians make promises about things they think people want to hear. Just before you drive away in your shiny new vehicle, you promise to pay a certain amount each month. Parents make promises to their children.

Unfortunately, many promises are not kept. What are you to do when promises are broken?

Why do people break promises?

So why do people break promises? It is assumed by many that it is a lack of commitment. And to be honest, that is the cause of many relationship issues.

But, let’s step back a minute and look at other causes.

Unrealistic expectations when promises are broken

Sometimes people make promises that are unrealistic, or unattainable. The person may be overconfident in themselves, overcommitted, or lack resources.

This person hasn’t really thought through what might prevent them from keeping the promise. Circumstances are often out of their control and these promises simply can’t be kept.

Being pressured when promises are broken

This often happens to people pleasers. This person is unable to say “no” to what they are being pressured into promising. They don’t want to be criticized.

I have seen this happen in child custody cases where a child makes a promise to do something to make the other parent look bad. Being young and inexperienced, they don’t understand the ramifications of their promise.

But children aren’t the only ones who make promises under pressure, and later regret them.

The grass is greener when promises are broken

Finally, we have a true lack of commitment when promises are broken. This person is self-centered and wants something else that seems better.

Why do broken promises hurt?

Regardless of the reason for it, there are varying degrees of hurt involved with broken promises.

We don’t usually understand all the factors involved. We just know that we feel disrespected, and that hurts.

Additionally, when promises are broken, they often cause great inconvenience if we were counting on them being kept.

  • Infidelity often leads to divorce which requires huge adjustments
  • Broken child support promises create havoc for making ends meet

Finally, it hurts when promises are broken because most people take it very personally, beginning to doubt their value and worth.

What does the Bible say about broken promises?

Scripture warns that it is a serious matter of making an oath or promise, especially if you are not going to keep them.

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God … It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” Ecclesiastes 5:2, 5 ESV

The Bible really says more about those who have been hurt, than it does about the promise-breaker.

“Do not repay evil for evil … ” 1 Peter 3:9

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

You see, it is a great temptation to retaliate when we are hurt. The solution is to give our hurt to God and realize that God promises to make something good from it.

The good thing is that we can count on God because He does not break His promises. (Numbers 23:9, Hebrews 6:18)

What do you do when someone breaks a promise?

Broken promises take time to get over. Yet there are some steps that will help us deal with the hurt or inconvenience that it has caused.

Of course, it takes someone mature to take these steps.

Evaluate the promise

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Was the promise realistic?
  • Did I have control over the circumstances or the person who broke the promise?
  • Do I have all the facts?
  • In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? Will it matter 10 or 20 years from now?

When we don’t have all the facts, we can come to the wrong conclusions. And some promises simply aren’t worth falling apart over.

If you answered no to these questions, then you need to take a deep breath and move on to the next steps.

Affirm your value in the sight of God

When we feel hurt, we often begin to doubt our value and worth.

People will let us down and we have no control over that.

Even if the other person truly does not respect us, it does not negate our value and worth. We are infinitely valuable to God. So much so that Jesus died for us.

The Bible says that we

  • Were carefully created in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16)
  • Our name was known before we were conceived or took our first breath (Psalm 139)
  • God knows everything about us and we can’t ever lose His love when we are His children and He is our father (Psalm 139, Romans 8:38-39)

We need to know what God says about who we are. That will keep us from falling into many psychological traps.

Remember that God always keeps His promises

  • God will never leave us even when others do. (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:8
  • He is always faithful, even when others are not. (2 Timothy 2:13, 1 John 1:9, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Hebrews 10:23, Isaiah 25:1)
  • God will heal our broken hearts when others can’t or don’t care. (Psalm 34:18, 147:3, 1 Peter 5:7, Isaiah 61:1)

Forgive the promise-breaker

Please don’t check out just yet.

Forgiveness is misunderstood by many people. It really is not about the other person at all. It is about our personal healing from the hurt created when promises are broken

Forgiveness sets us free from the trap of bitterness which can destroy us.

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:15

Final thoughts

When someone makes a promise to us, we must not grasp it too tightly. We can’t depend on it. Otherwise, we are setting ourselves up for great hurt.

We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people who will let us down from time to time. The key is to have our identity in Christ. Jesus gives us a firm foundation that prevents us from crumbling even when promises are broken.

If you have been deeply hurt by broken promises, the following resources may help you.

photo of the Scripture card.

This Scripture card is free and is a gentle reminder that you are not alone in these moments when your heart is broken. Click on the photo for an instant download, no email required.

Please also read, Testimonies of God healing broken hearts.

photo of the coloring book.

God Heals Broken Hearts is a 14-page coloring collection designed to help you move past the hurt into healing. It is a companion to “Testimonies Of God Healing Broken Hearts” where real women share how God brought about healing to their broken hearts. You will have hours of coloring enjoyment as you learn to give your broken heart to God.

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