Oath and Affirmation in the Court: Thoughts on the Power of a Sworn Promise
What power lies in an oath? As children, we augmented our promises: crossing our hearts and hoping to die; swearing on our mothers’ lives. Our word, it seemed, was understood to be insufficient; we knew as much, and accepted it. The avowed threat of harm to self or another was voluntarily hewn to us, a layer of protection, however paradoxical. . . . The significance given a promise when accompanied by a swearing on the Bible stirs us still as adults. There is a particular import, a gravitas, to such an oath: a message inherent therein that mandates a sense of trust, be it in oneself to fulfill the promise made or, if we are observing the oath or benefiting from its guarantee, in the oath-taker to do the same.