ON NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS AND OTHER PROMISES
'Tis the season to make all those annual New-Year's resolutions... you know, the promises you make to yourself to exercise more, go on a diet to lose 40 pounds, improve your mind by taking a class, read Scripture daily, attend Mass more often, pray the rosary, the list goes on.
Not that there's anything wrong with any of those pledges, but how come before the first month of the new year draws to a close on January 31, most of our resolutions have been broken? Nearly all of them were good intentions, no doubt, so why did we fail to keep them? Now to the nagging list of things we know we ought to be doing we add a feeling of guilt for not putting our promises into practice when we had the chance. We're no psychologist, but let's take a closer look at the impossible situation we sometimes create for ourselves every new year.
First of all, as you've probably heard before, don't set yourself up to fail by making your resolutions impossible to achieve. If you have been working out very little or not at all, don't attempt to exercise every day. Begin with just one or two days a week. And don't try to run three miles on the first day. Take a walk up and down the block and be satisfied with that initially. The same can be said with going on a diet. Start out modestly by not taking your usual second helping of something, or cut out dessert or a between-meal snack.
When it comes to reading Scripture daily, attending Mass more often, praying the rosary, etc., if you attempt to do all of those things right away, it's probably going to be too much. It's better to accomplish one thing than fail at three or four.
And speaking of failure, if you are too much of a perfectionist you may have the tendency to say that since you broke your resolutions two weeks into the new year there is no sense trying again. But you can always begin again with a new day, week or month. You don't have to wait until next January 1.
If you are a practicing Catholic, undoubtedly you make resolutions all the time, maybe without realizing it. For example, if you say an Act of Contrition every night before going to bed or when you receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you recite words similar to, "... I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life."
When we pray, don't we often promise our heavenly Father we're not going to sin again? Or, in prayer, don't we sometimes agree to live a better life by mending a quarrel or forgiving someone who has offended us?
And, how often do we fail to live up to our promises to God? But we know He understands our weak human nature, so we try again and again to live our life after the model of Jesus Christ even though we know we can't do it alone. A dear priest friend, the late Msgr. William Voors, often used to say one of the most important things we can do in our relationship with God is to never give up, don't become discouraged.
So, whether our New Year's resolutions involve improving our spiritual life, our physical condition or our mental attitude, the important thing to remember is to never quit. If we fail a few times, so what! We can promise, in fact, to always begin again!
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep
but I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep."