Fatherless: Inner Vows (Part 2)

I believed the message, not because my father was physically leaving. The extent of my dad’s involvement, at that point, included him stopping by for a few hours every six months or so. It was not the death of his physicality that made this message appear so reasonable, rather, it was the death of hope that made it absolutely undeniable. The hope that things might be different with my dad in the future, that things could change, that someday I might lean on his strength — invoke his pride — be loved by a loving father. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Vows begin when hope dies.” That day, I accepted what appeared irrefutable, “I was on my own.” (I didn’t have the words for it then, but I knew I was going to have to teach myself what it meant to be man, without a man in the house.) So this is where my agreement — inner-vow — began.

*What is an Inner Vow?

If you can’t change your behavior, even when you really want to, it may be that you have made an inner vow. An inner vow is a determination set in the mind and heart to protect us from pain. It is a promise that we make to ourselves, and it often involves the use of words like “always” and “never.”

Do you find yourself having these types of thoughts?

  • Why can’t I commit to a relationship? I really want to be married.
  • Why can’t I trust my spouse to pay the bills? I want to take that responsibility off my plate.
  • Why can’t I relax when the kids are at their friend’s house? I trust the parents and want them to have fun.

Here are some examples of inner vows:

  • I will never open up my heart again.
    • The pain you were protecting yourself from: abandonment and rejection
    • The long term result: inability to maintain relationships even when you desire to
  • I will always take care of myself.
    • The pain you were protecting yourself from: neglect from a caregiver
    • The long term result: inability to accept help from others even when you want help
  • I will always protect my children
    • The pain you were protecting yourself from: being unprotected by your parent
    • The long term result: inability to let your children take risks or go to someone else’s house even when you trust that they’ll be safe
  • I will never let anyone touch me like that again.
    • The pain you were protecting yourself from: sexual abuse
    • The long term result: inability to be sexually intimate even when you want to be

Inner Vows are Sometimes Difficult to Remember

We often make inner vows in the heat of the moment and then forget all about them once our circumstances change. Children sometimes make inner vows that follow them into adulthood. A person may remember the circumstance that hurt them, but forget the determination (vow) they made to protect themselves.

When we recognize an area of our lives that’s particularly resistant to change it is helpful to think back to when we were children and try to pinpoint when a specific fear began. Even though we mature physically and emotionally as we age, the inner vows we make as children remain locked in place. That is why they are so difficult to recognize.


Here’s another example: a child determines that he will never quit a job because his dad quit and it left the family in a difficult financial situation. Then, as an adult, the man cannot quit his current job even though there is a better job available to him. He completely forgot about the vow he made and can’t understand why he can’t move on without feeling fearful.


In my next post, I’ll talk more about how to break free from these vows we make so we can break past the unseen barriers that hold us back from fulfilling our God-given purpose.

Please feel free to comment (below) or if you’d prefer to message me here (or on my instagram account @joeljohnsonorg). I know sometimes talking about this subject can awaken some painful memories, I would like to help you navigate through them any way I can. I look forward to corresponding with you.


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*Hand of Jesus Ministries Website




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