A New Year’s Focus

By: Dennis Bates

Last year at this time I resolved not to resolve, explaining that I don’t believe in or make New Year’s Resolutions. I was surprised by the number of people who told me that they don’t make resolutions either. Okay, so there were two or three of them. That’s a significant percentage of my reader base, and the specific number isn’t the point anyway.

This year I’m going to go one better. I’m resolving not to write a blog about not resolving. Triple negative notwithstanding, I’m more than half serious so that makes it a negative and a half, unless you view my non resolving as technically only a double negative. In that case, half of two is, of course, one, but I digress.

Besides, I’ve already broken what I resolved not to not do by writing this much. So here’s one of my major problems with New Year’s Resolutions, and it’s not that nobody keeps them. That’s almost a given going in. Nobody ever intends to keep them, really. A New Year’s Resolution is, almost by definition, something we say we are going to do, but never actually plan to do.

Even the negative ones are. I resolve not to eat so much. I resolve not to be so crabby in the morning. I resolve to quit smoking. I resolve not to…fill in the blank. My problem with resolutions like this is that they assume two things that simply aren’t true.

First, they all focus on undesirable things and assume that if we just eliminate them, somehow we’ll be a better person. Take over eating, for example because I am acutely aware of this one. I assume if I eat less and eat more nutritiously it will make me a better person. Wrong. It may make me a thinner person, even a healthier person, but it won’t necessarily make me a better person. You can’t create good merely by eliminating the bad. All you create doing that is a world devoid of both bad and good.

And that brings me to my second concern. Resolving is not doing. You can make a fancy list of resolutions and even proclaim all the resolutions from the roof tops, but if you don’t do them, they mean very little and you’ll find yourself standing on the same roof top next New Year’s Eve proclaiming the same things with the same results. None.

If all you want is a tradition to observe before you count down the seconds to the New Year as the ball drops down in Times Square, then have at it. Make your list. Save it for next year like you do your favorite tree ornament and bring it out again to recite again. Just remember that as harmless as that may be, it is equally meaningless.

On the other hand, if you really want to do something new next year, make your resolutions by focusing on positive things, like the list in Philippians Chapter 4, verse 8.

            “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is praiseworthy—think about such things.”

And then do something totally radical next year. The next verse tells us how to do that.

             “…put it into practice. And the God of peace with be with you.”

Focus on the good and then do the good, and with God’s grace you will finally become a new and better person.


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