Future Can Disappear in the Face of Lip Service

Sometimes we act as if we need to choose between commitment and refusal or dissent. They are friendly to each other, and both important conversations. Saying no is a stance as useful as a promise. Both offer clarity and the authentic basis to move forward, even if there is no place to go at the moment. Lip service is another story. Nothing kills democracy or trans- formation faster than lip service. The future does not die from opposition; it disappears in the face of lip service.

Lip service sabotages commitment. It offers an empty step forward. It comes in the form of “I’ll try.” It is an agreement made standing next to the exit door. Whenever someone says they will try hard, agree to think about it, or do the best they can, it is smart to consider that a no. It may not be a final refusal, but at that moment there is no commitment. We can move forward with refusal; we cannot move forward with maybe. Trying hard is too often a coded refusal. Whether it is a response to feeling coerced, a sense of internal obligation, or just a desire to look good, it is really a way to escape the moment and hijacks commitment.

Wholehearted commitment makes a promise to peers about our contribution to the success of the whole. It is centered in two questions: “What promise am I willing to make?” and “What is the price I am willing to pay for the success of the whole effort?” It is a promise for the sake of a larger purpose, not for the sake of personal return. Commitment comes dressed as a promise.

What does lip service look like in your life? Is there a promise that you no longer mean? Is there a no that you’ve been postponing?

What will it look like to be prepared for lip service in your gathering, and how might you allow that to mature past barter into commitment or dissent?

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