What Is an Inner Vow? (And How to Get Rid of It)

What Is an Inner Vow? (And How to Get Rid of It)

An inner vow can seem like a good thing in the beginning.

“This person hurt me, and I am going to do everything I can to keep myself from getting hurt again.”

“I hate being laughed at. That was terrible! I will never do anything that encourages other people to mock me.”

One of the main goals of an inner vow is self-protection. Making a vow can seem like a good solution in the beginning. “This will help me be safe. It will keep me from getting hurt again.”

But no matter how well intentioned it is, eventually an inner vow will run us aground. This happens because when we make a vow to always do something, or to never do something, we step away from the strength of the Lord and start to rely on our own strength instead. 

“I will never get angry.”

“I will not get in trouble.” 

“I will always be strong.” 

“I will never do anything wrong.”

“I will be perfect.”

A vow is a human response to pain or fear, but every time we choose to rely on human help instead of the Lord’s, we are choosing something “man-made” that won’t be able to support us in the end (Jer. 17:5). 

Conversely, in a beautiful place of trust, we get to experience the fullness of God’s abundant blessings: 

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD. (Jer. 17:7 NKJV)  

Trust in the Lord equals blessing. An inner vow can quickly become an idol in our heart, because it stands between us and our ability to trust God. 

The Unexpected Twist With Inner Vows 

When we make an inner vow in anger, hurt, or bitterness, the vow causes us to do or be the very thing we vowed we would never do or be. Here are a few reasons this can happen.  

First, most vows begin because of a judgment we have made against someone else. Judging someone causes us to be judged the same way we judged that person (Matt. 7:1–2). Also, according to James 2:10, if we break even one small point of God’s law, we are guilty of breaking the whole law. Consequently, it is impossible to judge another person without being guilty of the same exact sin they committed against us. 

Second, we reap what we sow. A tiny seed of judgment eventually grows up into a tree that has branches, leaves, and fruit—the outgrowth is much larger than the seed we began with. 

Third, the choices we make in life are powerful. Jesus said in Matthew 18:18, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (NIV). God honors the decisions of our heart both ways: what we come into agreement with and what we come out of agreement with. He created us to choose His ways for all eternity—not be forced to follow them. Every choice we make in our heart, good or bad, produces an outcome.  

Finally, resentment never produces a righteous action. When something is birthed in resentment, it cannot be holy. An inner vow can feel like protection or “being smart,” but it is tainted with sin and can do nothing but lead a person deeper into sin. 

How Can We Tell If We Made an Inner Vow? 

Most inner vows are made during childhood, when we are first learning how to live. Some people can remember the exact moment when they responded to pain and made a vow. “I will never do this again.” Or “I will always be like this.” 

But in most cases, we won’t remember making the vow because many vows aren’t made at a specific moment but are formed over time. This is one reason it can be difficult to recognize vows and get rid of them.  

Even if we can’t remember making the vow, our actions reveal its presence. We can tell there is a vow because we can see its fruit. 

For instance, maybe conflict is a nightmare for us. “I can’t handle this! I would much rather ignore the issue instead of speaking up for myself.”  

Our reaction to conflict could be the fruit of a vow. Maybe sometime in the past we vowed we would never be angry like our parents or that we would never be rejected. 

Or maybe we find ourselves yelling at our kids, and we can’t figure out why. “Why am I doing this? I love my children, and this is not the kind of parent I want to be!” 

Our frustration could be the fruit of a vow. Maybe we hated the way our parents raised us and vowed we would be a better parent than they were. 

How to Eradicate an Inner Vow  

1. What is the inner vow you know (or at least suspect) you are struggling with? Take it to Jesus in prayer. Remember, you may or may not recall the moment the vow was made. You may not even have exact words to go with the vow, but you can tell it is there because of how you are responding to something in your life. You are repeatedly reacting in a bitter, sinful way.  

2. Express the pain that motivated you to make the vow. Don’t bury the event or experience, and don’t pretend it wasn’t a big deal. Acknowledge your hurt so you can begin to let go of it and be healed. 

3. Forgive those who hurt you and “pushed” you to make the inner vow. 

4. Repent for sinful reactions like making a judgment against your parents (or whoever was involved), believing a lie, adopting a negative expectation about God and life, etc. Also, be sure to forgive yourself for how you reacted. 

5. Once you have recognized and worked through forgiving the one who sinned against you (as well as the subsequent sin of judging that person), you can simply renounce or come out of agreement with the decision that followed the sin. Nail the inner vow to the cross in prayer. You could say something like this: “I come out of agreement with this vow. I repent for making it, and I nail it to the cross of Jesus. I am completely released from the vow’s power, and I am no longer bound to obey it.” 

6. Develop new habits that allow you to do the good things the vow prevented you from doing. For example, if the vow was “I am never going to trust a father figure again,” take a risk to trust a father figure who has shown himself to be trustworthy. Or if the vow was “I am going to be a perfect parent,” allow yourself to trust Jesus and relax with your family, knowing He can help you be a wonderful parent to your kids. 

Inner Vows and Your Self-worth  

An inner vow doesn’t have the power to help you become who you want to be. It will chain you up, not set you free.  

“I will never sin.” 

“I will be a good person in every situation.” 

“I will not make mistakes.”  

Vows like those do not line up with the truth of Jesus and His cross—that we are righteous because of His righteousness, which does not come through human striving. 

If you feel like you have to strive for His favor, or that you will get in trouble if you do not do everything perfectly—take another look at His face and realize His love isn’t based on how you perform. You do not need to self-protect with Him. You are His child, and He already approves of you. 

We need to put to death all inner vows, both the “good” and the bad, so that our righteousness is by God’s grace and not by our striving. 

 

For more on this topic, check out “Inner Vows” (MP3) from Elijah House.

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6 comments

This is revelation for me,nailing our inner vow is liberating from bondage of sin.

Philip

Thank you

Mildred ann Wagner

Thank you so much for the Godly counseling. This has helped me tremendously. Is there any way I can purchase more lessons? I purchased Lesson 4 and I would like to purchase more. God bless you.

Claudia Fonseca

It would be great to be able to get copies of these articles .

Jody Cox

Yep, right on target per my experience. Left me with the awareness that I have totally trusted in my power to take care of myself by making vows. Not working for me!

Clem

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