Monday, December 30, 2019

Is there a “best” new year’s resolution? There is indeed. Cover this one, and you’ve got your whole life pretty much covered.

It’s coming to that time of the year, when on the stroke of midnight of the 31stday of December, the calendar of the new year takes effect.  People the world over have a whole range of sentiments around this event, from being totally unfazed and indifferent about it, to being filled with enthusiasm, sentiments and hope.  For those to whom this event is significant, there are generally two things that they are likely to do.

Firstly, they like to do piecemeal analysis, where they look back at the various aspects of their lives and make a general reflection. So, for instance, they would look at the way their family lives went, how they fared in their working lives, their social lives, perhaps the state of their health, how they did in terms of their investments (financial and otherwise), and how healthy the state of their marriages were.  And if they are religious, it may include how they had fared in the aspect of their spiritual lives and whether they had grown in any positive way.

The other thing that follows from this examen is to cast an eye toward the coming year and, as it were, project onto each aspect of life a more positive outlook, treating each aspect as if it were a separate and individual component in life, almost compartmentalizing life.  

This can make the entire enterprise of making new year’s resolutions appear to be such a daunting task, partly because it also necessarily means that one needs to make so many different analyses and often, to make life easier, decide to only make resolutions to live better in only one or two aspects of life, simply because it’s just too bothersome or perhaps too persnickety.

I’m going to recommend an approach towards this whole task of making new years’ resolutions which is far easier, and what’s most truly amazing about this approach is that if you do this, and stick to this with great effort, there is really a guarantee that your entire life will be lived in a way that not only will do you tremendous good, but it will also make a positive difference to the world.

First of all, here is why making piecemeal resolutions is not going to make a great difference.  It merely compartmentalizes our lives, and can end up making us very myopic in life, where we can end up ignoring or overlooking the other aspects of our lives that we deem to be less important.  So, for instance, for a person in sales who is very career focused, while his resolution is for a greater sales target than this year’s, he may be dedicating so much energy and resources to make that new target, he could well be attaining that goal at the cost of spending less time and giving less love by being less present to his wife and children at home.  The attaining of this resolution takes its toll then on his role as a husband and a father.  Every piecemeal resolution is going, very likely, negatively impact other aspects of one’s life.  But there is a solution to this apparent conundrum.

This is when there is only one resolution made – to put God truly at the centre and heart of one’s life, and make one’s world revolve around God.  Why is this the resolution that handles all other resolutions?  Because it helps one to live life with a proper perspective in life, and a proper perspective of life.  

Perhaps an analogy would help, and I’d like to take the example of a meal table, and to be more specific, a Chinese meal table on a festive occasion like perhaps that important reunion dinner to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  On this table will always be laden a variety of dishes.  There will be often a fish dish, perhaps a prawn dish, one that is a vegetable, a soup that is made of luxurious ingredients, a meat dish, and a noodle or a rice dish.  All these are laid on the table and the members of the family are seated around it to share the food before them.  

Taking this as a metaphor of one’s life, do you see your life like this banquet table, with each dish representing a certain aspect or component of your life? Are there dishes that represent your family life, another your work life, another your career, another your social life, and perhaps one dish that is the dish where God gets your resources of time and love? If this is how you view life (and I believe many people do), God simply is viewed as one among the many other parts or components of your life.  If you seriously think about it, how could God, who makes all things (in this analogy, all ‘dishes’) possible and exist, merely exist alongside the things that he has created and holds in existence?  God cannot therefore be viewed as a ‘dish’ on the table, but is in fact outside of the table, and is the whole celebration, including the fact that you can be seated at the table partaking of the whole meal.

I’m not sure if I have conveyed this important point sufficiently through my use of this analogue.  But I do hope that it helps support the reason that if we make that one resolution to improve our relationship with God, to gravitate more and more toward his will, to live in his grace with more love and effort on our part, to truly begin to adore and worship him with our entire being, it will definitely bring improvements into every other component in our lives. Every ‘dish’ on that table will be tended to with greater care, moral rectitude, justice and most importantly, love. From our family life to our careers, from our social lives to the seeming little things like the way we drive our cars and treat others who treat us badly - because our relationship with God is lived well, these other elements too will benefit from this resolution in a significant way.

When St Augustine so famously said “love and do what you will”, this is what he alluded to.  Taken out of context and wrongly read, it may appear that one is given great license to do anything one wants to in life as long as one loves. Unfortunately, this is not so. The love that St Augustine refers to is the love of God.  

When the love of God is our deepest and firmest resolution, not just for a year, but for every day of our lives, we will be living in a very ordered and orderly way, and this will help to sanctify ourselves and the world we live in.  If there is only one resolution to make, let it be this one.  It’s really a no-brainer.  

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