Why bother with New Year’s Resolutions? Too often they are little more than frustrating starts to the rest of our lives. But what if we crafted more than party favors?
Those of us from a liturgical church tradition may have a head start. A new church year starts with the Season of Advent, which begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The name “advent” is derived from a Latin word for “coming.” Many Christians craft their New Year’s resolutions with thought of the “three comings of Christ”: (1) the coming celebration of our Lord’s nativity - Christmas; (2) the coming of Christ in our hearts; and (3) the coming of Christ at the end of the ages. Of course, the vast majority of the world uses the Gregorian calendar and celebrates the beginning of a new calendar year on January 1st. In pre-Christian times the Julian calendar also started on January 1stand was dedicated to Janus, the Roman god of gateways and beginnings, for whom the month of January is named.
On January 1stand thereafter I urge you to recognize that each day is a new day and a new beginning. First and foremost, therefore, resolve to be free of the past. Be gentle with yourself. No one is perfect. Rather than beating oneself for a mistake, have a sense of humor (“Oh, there you go again, Mark”).
Give up comparing people, including yourself to others. People are too complicated for a true, apples-to-apples comparison anyway. Comparing ourselves to others almost inevitably leads to either judging oneself or others. Remember – your journey is unique … and so are the journeys others pursue. Be happy for them. Be happy for yourself. Smile, be friendly and be of good cheer. It’s a mood changer – for you and others; because non-verbal communications are often more powerful than the spoken word.
Give back. Discover what it means to be blessed to be a blessing. Sharing of your time, talent, and treasure is powerful for you and for others. By giving back you shift your perspective from an internal, sometimes needy place to a source for external satisfaction and joy. It can be building Habitat homes or as simple as buying a cup of coffee or a sandwich for someone. Volunteer and interact with people so you can see the difference you make. Volunteering in our mobile Holy Grill comes to mind; feed the homeless and working poor – feed body and soul.
Be compassionate and of good character with a healthy balance of Head and Heart. Just as anger and cruelty seem to soak into and darken one’s marrow, compassion (which comes with empathy and kindness) lightens the spirit for joy. Have integrity and be honest. These are values no one can take from you; they have to be given away. Respect the dignity of every human being – dealing honestly and justly with all. Eschew divisiveness in favor of an inclusive sense of community for peaceful living.