Most of us would readily acknowledge that New Year's resolutions are a mixed bag. When we set such goals -- or make such commitments -- our intentions are good. As a friend reminded me the other day, we plan for these commitments to be more than one person's definition of a resolution: a one-week to-do list.
For many of us, resolutions are made but quickly forgotten. Others take them far more seriously. You can tell because they make a plan for carrying out their noble intentions. These resolvers are more likely to find success.
I did a quick online search the other day to see (1) what people are resolving to accomplish this year and (2) what some are suggesting as resolutions for others. These never seem to change much from year to year. In fact, some people make the same resolutions (or slight variations of the same resolutions) every Jan. 1.
Here's a sampling of what I found:
• Apply for more life insurance.
• Sort out personal finances.
• Lose weight.
• Stay fit and healthy.
• Get fit and healthy.
• Get organized.
• Earn more money.
• Spend less.
• Save more.
• Set aside more for retirement.
• Give more to the church.
• Give more to charities.
• Live life to the fullest.
• Learn something exciting.
• Learn something useful.
• Help others achieve their dreams.
• Fall in love.
• Plan everything.
• Help others often.
• Spend more time with loved ones.
• Keep learning.
• Manage stress.
• Take a trip.
• Become a better husband, wife, son, daughter, mother, father, etc.
People of faith pick up on these but add resolutions that contribute to their spiritual growth:
• Read the Bible daily.
• Tithe. Or perhaps move closer to a tithe in giving to the church.
• Share personal faith more consistently with others.
• Participate in a mission trip.
• Become active in a particular ministry of the church.
For the most part, resolutions are good things, whether made to start a year or mid-year.
We all have areas in our lives in which we need to improve.
Self-improvement isn't rocket science. It is a matter of personal conviction. As people mature, they naturally seek to become more proficient in matters of life.
Many make resolutions intended primarily to benefit themselves. Some resolutions in the first list at the left are "benefit me" resolutions. Others reflect a desire to do better at meeting the needs of others with personal resources like funds, talents or time.
All of us from time to time welcome chances for "do-overs" or fresh starts.
No one makes it through life without failures or regrets. Few of us wish to repeat failures. Most of us want to minimize decisions and actions that prompt regret in our lives.
One benefit of a new year is the opportunity for a fresh start. While we may not be able to wipe away or forget the failures or disappointments of the previous year, a fresh start helps us to deliberately chart a better course for the immediate and long-term future.
Believers in particular live under the mandate of becoming more like Christ in motivation, thoughts, speech and actions.
We may or may not wear the bracelet, but "What would Jesus do?" is the question that drives those who have made a serious faith commitment to Christ. Whether seeing improvements in our lives or desiring a fresh start, striving to live a life that reflects our relationship to Christ helps protect us from selfishness, brings balance to our lives and projects a healthy faith.
I hope 2012 is your best year ever for you, your family and your church.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.