Resolutions That Endure
Forget New Year's Resolutions and Be Resolute Everyday
We have embarked on a new year, and along with it, quite possibly, a New Year’s Resolution or two. The start of a new year, at least to me, signals that it is time to start fresh, forget about our shortcomings, “to begin again”, as Riverbend’s Dr. Gerald Mann famously said. Gilbert Chesterton, an English writer, poet, and philosopher once said, “the object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective”.
Having contemplated the aforementioned wisdom, New Year’s Resolutions have always been somewhat of a paradox to me. Every year around this time, many of us resolve to start things, stop things, or do things. We make a commitment and we are usually sorta resolute about it. And yet, at the same time, when the going gets tough, many of us (yes, I’m looking in the mirror), aren’t quite so resolute. It is estimated that 40% of Americans consistently make New Year’s resolutions, but a paltry 8% of those commitments are actually kept. If my math is correct, about 3 in 100 Americans succeed in both making resolutions and actually executing on them.
Why can’t we keep our resolutions? Are we simply undisciplined?
We Americans are not exactly resolution-keepers, and on a larger scale, nor are we even generally recognized as promise-keepers. One need look no further than the vow of marriage in our country. Most would argue that marriage is a fairly significant promise, and roughly 50% of these promises end in divorce. Our leaders seem to break promises with just about every utterance from their lips, and campaign promises are conveniently disregarded as soon as the oath of office is taken. A handshake used to be all it took to seal a deal, but now it takes a 20-page contract to force us to do what is right. Indeed, it seems rare when a promise is actually kept these days. And statistics bare out that our own resolutions sadly follow the same fate.
So, the obvious question is, why? Why can’t we keep our resolutions? Are we simply undisciplined? Armed with that question, I performed a quick Google search to find out what the most common resolutions are, and discovered that a recent Nielsen survey captured exactly what I was seeking. Take a look below at Americans’ Top 10 most popular New Year’s Resolutions:
1. Stay fit and healthy
2. Lose weight
3. Enjoy life to the fullest
4. Spend Less and save more
5. Spend more time with family and friends
6. Get organized
7. Will not make any resolutions
8. Learn something new / new hobby
9. Travel more
10. Read more
Not one of these resolutions, with the possible exception of #7, which coincidentally is my personal favorite, surprises me. Who doesn’t want to be a more physical specimen? Likewise, while maybe a tad vague, are we wrong for wanting to “enjoy life to the fullest”? Although it’s been said that “an organized desk is the sign of a sick mind”, who can argue with a resolution to “get organized”? This list is sort of like motherhood and apple pie; it’s inarguable; it’s totally obvious. Or is it? Is there something wrong with the way we derive our resolutions? Is something amiss with our thinking?
In the pursuit of investing in others, I have somewhere along the way improved me and gratified me, something I was unable to do until I began to focus on others.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed there’s one common theme with all of our most popular resolutions. They are all about ME. They all relate to improving ME, gratifying ME, or accommodating ME. They all focus on the triune of Me, Myself, and I. Is that a bad thing? I don’t really have an answer, but I suspect many resolutions fail because we think, “if I don’t fulfill my promise, it’s no big deal because it really only affects me”. And because I believe many of us are closet procrastinators, it satisfies the “I’ll just try again next year” reasoning.
Over the last few years, I have come to believe that there is an easy fix for us to stop making promises that fail, and as such a fundamentally new way of thinking about our resolutions. And like so many simple but profound philosophies, one need look no further than the Bible. How should we make resolutions? The Bible tells us, in so many words, that we should do three things when making promises. First, we should resolve to do the right things (Ephesians 5:17). Secondly, we should resolve to keep those things simple (James 5:12). And thirdly, we should, as Nike also entices us, “Just Do It”, and do it now (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5:5).
They are all about ME. They all relate to improving ME, gratifying ME, or accommodating ME. They all focus on the triune of Me, Myself, and I.
There is beauty in simplicity, and I love the simplicity by which God tells us how to make promises. But what are these “right things” we should resolve to do? That’s where I, and probably so many others, really need guidance. I believe the answer lies throughout the Good News, and can easily be discovered throughout it’s pages. And that right thing is to INVEST IN ANOTHER’s LIFE EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s that simple. It’s not rocket-science, but it is prophetic.
For me, the right thing can be found in the beautiful book of Matthew, which elegantly describes acts of mercy we can all do, every day. Specifically, in Matthew 25:35-36, Jesus essentially states that we should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite strangers in for fellowship, clothe those who have no clothes, care for the sick, and visit our brothers and sisters in prison. These acts do not require a lot of money, they don’t require a lot of planning, and they don’t require a lot of time. And they certainly meet the three success criteria the Bible outlines: they are the right things, they are simple, and we can just do them, now.
Personally, I can tell you that I spent the better part of my adult life striving to improve me, and while arguably not terribly successful, only over the last few years have I seen a noticeable, positive change in my life. I have come to realize that if I accomplish nothing else in my life, for as long as I live, except for the six things Jesus describes in Matthew, I believe I will have lived a fulfilling life. My focus has evolved to steadfastly serving others, not serving me, and in the process, something amazing has happened. In the pursuit of investing in others, I have somewhere along the way improved me and gratified me, something I was unable to do until I began to focus on others.
I have come to realize that if I accomplish nothing else in my life, for as long as I live, except for the six things Jesus describes in Matthew, I believe I will have lived a fulfilling life.
So today, my highest hope is that each of you will make a New Year’s resolution that will truly endure, and be resolved to make it an everyday resolution. Explore your heart and invest in others. Serve others. Help feed them, give them drink, invite them in, clothe them, and care for them. Serve others in a way that is pleasing to our Father, and resolve to do it every day, and I promise an enduring, fulfilling existence on this beautiful planet.
Let's Embrace The Grace, together.
It's All Good.