"Commitment is about giving something of yourself that makes sense."

Co-founder of the Institut de Formation de Fondacio en Europe (IFF Europe), François Prouteau is a Doctor of Education. Passionate about human formation, he accompanies young people in search of commitment. From alliance to contract, from fear to involvement, how to get involved? Interview.

What does "getting involved" mean to you?

FP: It means first of all getting involved in life and in one's life. Getting involved in life means being involved in the world as it is today with its issues, its challenges, its opportunities, its crises.

It also means getting involved with others, wanting to answer with them the questions we ask ourselves about the meaning of the activities we carry out and, more broadly, the questions we ask ourselves about the meaning of life.
As for being involved in one's life, it means "giving oneself".

What does that mean?...

Giving something of oneself that makes sense, mobilizing something of oneself (one's skills, one's desires).
Getting involved in this sense is positive, even if one can commit oneself to causes that are not always good: it is not necessarily because one commits oneself that one does something in the service of the good.

So what are the conditions for a good commitment?

FP: You shouldn't be alone and say to yourself: "I'm the best, I'm going to save the world". Otherwise, passion leads to a form of pride.

You have to give more priority to the collective, the group and, what we could call, "being with". It is then a question of being very attentive to the people with whom we engage. We must ask ourselves the question: "Do we share the same vision of things? ».

In any commitment, there must be time for dialogue so that we can be clear about the values that mobilize us and the vision we have of things. Dialogue also makes it possible to get to know each other, to meet the other person for free and thus to know with whom one is committing oneself.

So you seem to associate commitment with giving?

F.P.: Absolutely! I would even say that there is a notion of alliance in commitment. We find this notion of alliance at the different stages of life: when we commit ourselves to someone in order to make a life with them, when we commit ourselves to a relationship in order to welcome a child, when we commit ourselves professionally with an organisation, a company or teams.

There is therefore in the commitment a relationship that takes the form of an alliance that is often formalized by a contractual dimension. Finally, commitment is played out in the articulation of the contract and the alliance (and, conversely, the alliance and the contract): this alliance/contract relationship is, in my view, at the heart of the notion of commitment.

"There are things that we know, but the flavour - the taste - of commitment is made up precisely of something that is beyond, that we do not know. It is the salt of commitment. »

Isn't there, at the source of all commitment, a mystery?

F. P.: Yes, because I think that commitment always has something to do with relationships, creation and trust. With these three dimensions (relation-creation-confidence), we arrive at the spiritual register and a deep perspective that is always in an invisible, in a desire and an expectation that is not known in advance.

This requires a form of disappropriation that is a mystery. Some things are understood but others are not. When one commits oneself to others, there are things that one knows, but the flavour - the taste - of commitment is made up of something that is beyond, that one does not know, and which is the salt of commitment.

How can we grasp this mystery without becoming disconcerted?

In this component of the mystery, I would like to emphasize two things. First, surprise: when we commit ourselves, there is a letting go - we give up, we lose something of ourselves - and, secondly, we discover that the fruit of commitment is also to discover ourselves, to find ourselves anew.

What would you say to someone who is in a black hole, who is stuck in relation to any commitment, whether professional, loving or otherwise?

The first thing I would do is to ask them: "Are you ready for something new in your life? Or do you prefer to remain in a form of installation or reproduction of what happens to you on a daily basis even if you seem dissatisfied with it? ». Acceptance of change is therefore the first condition for becoming capable of commitment. It is then important to detect within oneself the small spikes of desire, motivation, glow that emerge.

Then you have to talk about it with someone you trust (a friend, a relative, a relative or someone more external such as a guidance counsellor, a psychologist). The dialogue with this person must be enlightening and allow the motives for this change to be perceived and deepened.

It is then necessary to know how to let go so that the novelty can happen and lead to a decision that triggers the commitment of a new experience.


To commit oneself, one must therefore be of good will, that is to say, have an open will. Is it also necessary to be a man or a woman of desire?

Exactly! It is necessary this openness to oneself and to others so that the sparks of life, the sparks of the future, the sparks of hope or expectation can be triggered, awakened. These sparks can appear in professional life as well as in friendship, love, family, etc. But beware, they can also appear in the associative, sporting and artistic spheres.

These spaces of commitment can be, indeed, the place of new creativity and innovation capable of nourishing and nurturing that which is not always invested in us. For example, in sport or in an artistic activity, we can awaken to life, to novelty, to involvement with others and therefore to commitment.

Someone who is going around in circles must therefore pay close attention to the diversity of places in which commitment is possible. Where a strong commitment does not seem possible (professional or marital commitment) for a thousand reasons, and the situation seems blocked, well, by taking steps aside, one can find places of creativity and innovation elsewhere. Moreover, as a guidance counsellor or coach, I often put these "steps aside" in the dialogue with those I receive.


Finally, small commitments can prepare for big ones...


Exactly! It's the virtue of baby steps. The story of the hummingbird told by Pierre Rabhi is very telling. While the jungle is on fire, the hummingbird goes back and forth with water in its beak to extinguish the flames, the other animals ask him: "What are you doing? "and the hummingbird answers, "I'm doing my part to put out the fire.

Doing one's share of commitment means taking those small steps that we were talking about just now: (small) initiatives that seem small compared to the scale of the problems to be solved in the world, but which are the part to which everyone can contribute and which can stimulate others.


Is there a crisis of commitment in our time, in your opinion? If so, how should we analyze it?

If I believe the students of the French Grandes Ecoles (Polytechnique, HEC, ENS, Agro, etc.), I can see some of them getting involved. Recently, for example, some of them committed themselves in the Student Manifesto for an Ecological Awakening to question together the major companies in their capacity to respond to the ecological and environmental crisis. They pledged to give up working for those of them that were not clear about their own environmental commitments.

So, in fact, in this situation, we have the example of students who take risks and make a strong commitment, whereas previous generations of students might never have made such choices.

All of this is to tell you that the components of commitment today are to be gauged in relation to the context in which we live. Today, some areas mobilize more engagement than others.


Beyond the current challenge, what hope can we have?

There is no fatality to be had! There is freedom, opportunities and a future that is always open even if it is tenuous, even if it hangs by a thread. This thread is that of the relationship between people (the "living together") and the spiritual relationship (religion) which means that there will always be something to live, something to do.

As such, commitment is always a possibility of openness, hope and future".


Interview by Joseph Vallançon

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