I have a question about vows. For a year or so, when I become concerned that something I'm doing or might do is sinful, I suddenly start to think a vow to God that I won't do that thing. This happens with no time to think about the vow, about whether I want to make it or whether it's worded in a way that won't cause difficulties I haven't thought of yet. Sometimes I stop myself before I finish the thought, but other times I can't because it happens very quickly.
I have experienced some vow thoughts that I think are just intrusive thoughts that I have because I feel afraid I'll make a vow, but others feel more intentional. I think I make them because I feel so worried about sinning that I vow not to do the thing I'm worried about so the worried feeling will go away. However, I do not really want to make these vows except maybe for the quarter of a second initial reaction where I want to stop feeling anxious. If I had a moment to think and didn't have my brain continuing to try to think the vow even when I try not to make it (which often happens), I would never agree to any of these things.
I want to stop making these vows because keeping them is making my life very difficult, but I literally cannot stop. I also need to know if I am required to keep them. I am heavily restricted in what I can eat and wear because of them, and I cannot imagine living the rest of my life this way.
Please let me know if you can help me.
A vow is more than a mere thought about promising something. It is a commitment that is witnessed by others. Thus, what you are describing is a temptation to make unnecessary vows. You are correctly realizing that making such vows is wrong. "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil" (Matthew 5:34-37).
What you describe is a form of OCD. People suffering from OCD are trying to remove risks. I suspect that deep inside of you, you think that if you make a vow to God that this will make whatever you are facing to be certain. You worry about sinning so you imagine that if you vow to God not to sin, then you won't give in to the temptation. The problem is that such a vow is meaningless. God already commands us not to sin. A vow doesn't make a command more certain. In fact, when people do this, they are actually saying that God's commands are less important unless I promise to keep them -- then they are more important. Who then is in charge of your life and your decisions?
You can't stop temptation from happening. But you can continue to reject what you are being offered. Realize where the impulse is coming from and put your trust in God and not yourself.