I resolve…

by Douglas Field – 

New Year’s resolutions. Why do we make them? The historical answer is because we’ve been doing it for about four thousand years; the inhabitants of ancient Babylon started making New Year’s resolutions in a serious way around 2000 B.C., when the new year was celebrated on the first day of spring… the Babylonians’ most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment, which would be needed in the soon-to-be planting season. (Did you ever return the neighbor’s hedge trimmer you borrowed last summer?)

The short answer is probably because we need to make them, although one professional cynic has said that resolutions, like piñatas, seem to be made for the specific purpose of being broken.

It’s not hard to get the resolution urge on New Year’s Eve. There’s that sense of renewal, of rebirth, and the guilty urge that we ate our weight in chocolate during the holidays. For sure, most of us have habits or pounds we’d be better off without, and using the New Year as the point to turn the page usually seems like a good idea. It’s clean, it’s neat, we can announce it publicly as some sort of negative motivation, family and friends are doing it, and nobody will think badly of us when, almost inevitably, we break it.

The fact is, most of us don’t have a clue how to make a realistic resolution, which is why most of us fail to keep them. Usually our resolutions are totally unrealistic and unreasonable. We set impossibly high goals then wonder why we fail. So we give up. It is the nature of most of us to be more successful by increments. This is certainly the way the Management By Objectives model was organized––set reasonable, measurable objectives and devise a do-able plan to achieve them. Once achieved, another set of reasonable and measurable objectives can be set.

Resolutions don’t have to be portentous. One writer has suggested a resolution as simple as, “I resolve to make this year better than last year.” Actually, the implications of that are staggering if we’re serious.

The first century Christians, few of whom had actually met Jesus Christ, found His teachings so compelling and His influence so powerful, that their lives were radically and quickly changed. They weren’t incrementalists. Once they had resolved to become Christians, they became resident aliens in their own society, putting their lives at risk. Eventually, many thousands of them were executed rather than repudiate a man they called ‘Savior’ and ‘Lord’. Today Christians call them ‘saints’ and ‘heroes of the faith’. Few of them were saintly in the way we use the word, and they certainly didn’t see themselves as heroes. Encountering Jesus Christ had been a transforming and compelling experience, leaving them unable to break their resolve.

It makes a resolution to be more helpful around the house pretty insignificant by comparison.

––Excerpted from

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