You Will Gasp in Disbelief at How One Goon Failed Miserably at New Year’s Resolutions.
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“Have a Mind-Meltingly Good Year By Following This One Weird (Possibly Illegal) Trick”
“Achieve Total Global Domination These Next 52 Weeks!“
Well, interwebs – it’s happened again. We’ve sauntered into a new year and brought a blitzkrieg of “good” advice with us. The band has reconvened and the dance of self-improvement has begun once more. As I watched my newsfeed cascade with tips and tricks for a fruitful next year, I couldn’t help but have a rather sobering thought:
“None of this will ever truly satisfy.”
Have you ever had a similar thought before?
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am all for mastery, self-improvement, discipline and betterment. I am stubbornly committed to always learning new skills and sharpening the ones I already have. What I know for certain though – is that these pursuits are illusory at best. The truth is that behavior modification never leads to real freedom.
If we diligently follow “These Twenty-Eight Easy Steps,” we may live longer, even more engaging lives, but at the heart level these checklists will always disappoint. We will fall short – sometimes to an embarrassing degree. We will struggle and fail. We will hit the snooze button. We will skip cardio day. We will eat what we swore we wouldn’t.
And the brutal cycle will continue.
I think comedian Joey Adams understood this tension well when he wrote:
“May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.”
I can spot a new hairdo, but it will still be me. I can commit to eating only locally-grown cardboard, watching exclusively foreign documentaries, or always sit with kingly posture – but these regimens simply cannot transform the heart. They look merely to the symptoms while blithely ignoring the disease.
In some cases we may even succeed for a while, which can sometimes be even more destructive than early failure. As we flourish, we are tempted to believe that our value is found in what we accomplish rather than who we are. As that distortion takes root we begin to see others through that same murky lens as well. Relationships can be reduced, in our hearts, to the mere measurement of achievements and successes.
This reveals what I perceive as a truth that many of us know all too well:
“Sometimes the heart of the issue is an issue of the heart.”
When our attempts at melioration fall short – we will come face to face with the reality that we still carry the same worries and fears, the same sadness, burdens, and hardships.
Because what we need is not new things – but a new life.
G.K. Chesterton put it far better than I ever could:
“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 particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The disconcerting truth is that most New Year’s resolutions are based on a lie.
“If I lose this weight – then I’ll be truly happy”
“If I make this much money – then I’ll finally be complete”
“If I master this one skill – then I’ll be successful”
Deep down I think that each of us is aware that these statements aren’t really true, but we white-knuckle our lists and resolutions and try one more time only to be met again by the disappointment that we cannot fully achieve what we would deem “good enough” in our lives.
Instead of looking to accomplishments for significance, instead of allowing skillsets to command our identity, and instead of gripping tightly to past successes or allowing ourselves to be gripped by past failure – I propose the following for this next year:
-Be truly honest with yourself.
-Allow yourself to be truly known by others.
-And show grace toward failures, even your own.
So I entreat you, beloved, to pursue the highest heights and grapple with the deepest depths. Dream massive dreams and listen to the stillness. Pursue interests, seek improvement, explore new arenas.
But, for the believer, do so with the scandalous knowledge of a God who not only declares you justified, but who invites you as children to rest in His mercies.
“A new heart also will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you.” – Ezekiel 36:26