Failing to keep New Years’ resolutions requires good humor, gentle resolve

Matters of FaithFebruary 5, 2014 

If you’re a typical person, I imagine you are in the midst of some startling self-awareness as it relates to making and keeping your self-improvement resolutions for this year.

For most of us, about this time in January, we discover again that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Diets leave us hungry and obsessing on food. Exercise gets tripped up by rainy, dismal weather and warm cozy bedding. Other vices face us with similar challenges as we seek to be good, better than before or simply leaning toward our most hopeful newly minted best behavior.

So I offer these words, not as an excuse, but as an explanation.

As much as we all might be wired to succeed, we are also wired, by nature, to fail. Sometimes even to fail miserably.

I’m mindful of the comments offered by the Apostle Paul in his early first-century letter to the young Christian community of Rome. Whether it’s a matter of confronting his own life challenges or simply speaking of the general human condition, Paul’s words resonate still all these centuries later.

He writes: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,” and again, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells within.”

Breaking new-year resolutions is a far cry from evil and sin, of course, but the dynamic and challenge at work is similar.

In matters related to resolutions, it certainly helps to have a partner for support and encouragement. In matters related to sin, it truly helps to have a strong redeemer and friend who can accomplish for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

But, perhaps in all things, such gifts as a word of forgiveness, tender grace and an embrace of the gift of hope for all things one day made new will keep us on task, helping us to take our failures with good humor and filling us with a gentle resolve to try once more.

Matters of Faith columnist Kim Latterell can be reached by email at latterka@plu.edu.

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