I gave up New Year’s Resolutions decades ago. Inevitably my resolutions were too hard and too many. And, honestly, they were also pretty trite and unimaginative. Not to mention self defeating. It doesn’t work for me to resolve to eat better and exercise more when it is dark, cold, snowy and there are no fresh fruits and vegetables around. In January all I want to do is huddle under a blanket with a book, a plate of cookies and a cup of (double strength) hot chocolate. Rather than feeling badly by mid January that I wasn’t keeping my resolutions, I simply gave up making resolutions. January is still cold, dark and snowy but at least I don’t make things worse by adding personal failure into the mix.
I guess I could say that I made a resolution to not make resolutions and thereby be successful, but the tiny rebellion of not making resolutions felt good.
Once I took the pressure of measurable self improvement via resolutions off, it became possible for me to reflect on the past year and to think about hopes for the future year. Rather than creating a to do list, I began thinking about how I wanted to live and what sort of person I wanted to become. I stopped thinking in terms of “I need to…” and starting thinking about “How can I…” I stopped resolving to exercise four times a week and to stop eating sugar and to eat fresh, organic cooked from scratch food daily. I began to think about becoming healthier. Not how to be “healthy” but how to become more healthy. I stopped resolving to read the Bible daily and pray twice a day to thinking about how I might grow in knowledge and love of God. Linguistically that may not seem like much of a change, but conceptually- for me- it was. It was the difference between doing and becoming; between achieving and growing; between fighting my life and embracing my life.
One year not too long ago I wondered how can I love the people around me more? That didn’t work much better than resolving to exercise more. Is it possible to love my spouse or children more? What does it mean to love more? Was I supposed to do more for them? Be more involved in their lives? Say “I love you” a particular number of times a day? It seemed to me that loving more wasn’t really what I needed to do. Notice the “do” in that last sentence.
What was it that I needed to do? I needed to not “do” but I needed to ” be” wise, to love wisely. Loving wisely is, I think, how God loves us and what God hopes for us.
Loving wisely is recognizing and accepting the reality of your life. Loving wisely involves attentiveness. Loving wisely tries to do what is best for the other, even if that is difficult. Loving wisely sometimes means stepping back and giving space, and letting go of the outcome. Loving wisely is sometimes stepping nearer when you would rather not because you are too exhausted or too scared to risk again. I needed to becomes someone who could love wisely. I still need to. Loving wisely isn’t particularly measurable and yet I can (usually) recognize when I am loving wisely (or not).
Mostly I figure this out after the fact. Oh, I should have …. Or, oh I should have not…. It involves noticing what is going on around me. It involves attentiveness to the people around me and to my self. Yes, yes I need to love myself wisely as well. Loving wisely is not a state I achieve as much as a place I enter into. It is a place I try to stay in.
Loving wisely turned out to be the only New Year’s resolution I’ll ever need.