Every 365 days, many of us celebrate the arrival of the New Year by making New Year’s resolutions. Most of them consist of a resolution to lose weight, cut down alcohol consumption, adopt an exercise program, and learn to speak a foreign language, take up a musical instrument, or read more. Some of us vow to become more involved in religion, spend increased time with our family and participate more with our children. They are all positive, well-meaning, emotionally healthy steps. Statistics show, however, that in less than 30 days, 50% of those resolutions will be broken. By 90 days, only 20% of the individuals who made their resolutions will still be adhering to them. A year later, most of us will be making the same resolutions over again, for the following year. Because of that, when you question individuals about “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”, you often hear people say “I quit making them long ago because I make them, but never keep them. What’s the use?” I’d like to help each of you understand what the use is and, in the process, hopefully, encourage you to keep making those resolutions.
Perhaps the best example I can give you comes from a movie, Keeping the Faith. Not necessarily the best movie I’ve ever seen, but it was delightfully entertaining. It not only conveyed several very important messages with regard to faith, religion, romance, honesty and friendship, but it left me with an “up” feeling. So much so that after seeing it I couldn’t help but smile. It was a story about three youngsters: a Catholic boy, a Jewish boy, and their best friend, an energetic tomboyish Protestant girl. They were the Three Musketeers until the girl moved away while in junior high.
Years later, she returns to New York and they renew their friendship. By that time, the Catholic boy had become a priest, the Jewish boy became a rabbi and the young lady became a high-powered business executive. With their reunion came some complications, one of which was the stirring of sexual feelings in the priest for the young lady. It caused him to doubt his commitment to the church and question his vow of abstinence. As a result, he sat down with the Monsignor and told him about his guilt and confusion. During their conversation, the Monsignor confided that, years before, he, too, had been attracted to a woman. He suggested that every human being is subject to experiencing doubts - that, in the course of living our lives, we can lose our direction, forget our goals and have concern over our wherewithal to live up to our convictions and desires. He went on to say “You made a commitment to the church. When you made that commitment, you looked upon it as a one-time vow, which you would either keep or not. When, in your eyes, you failed, it all went down the tubes, and now you’re ready to throw in the towel.”
After hearing those words, I was wowed. It made me think that too many of you live your lives the same way. You go on diets and do wonderfully well. Then one night you go out and blow it. You eat every bit of bread on the table, consume wine by the bottle and dessert becomes the crowning blow. That night when you arrive home, you remorsefully accept your defeat. “That’s it, the diets over. I blew it.” It’s downhill from there. You eat, gorge, punish yourself for having failed and then weigh more than before you started the diet. You fail to recognize that you’re human and have frailties. You’re not perfect; you’re not God, which is something you have to frequently remember. Because when you do you’ll realize everything that happens is not your fault, under your control, or as you will it. Therefore, you can’t take all the credit or blame for what takes place in your world. You also have to see that resolutions, commitments and promises need to be made over and over again. Each time you fail or fall short of a goal you set, you have to stop and ask yourself “Do I still want to be thin, be a priest, stay angry at someone, or maintain friendships with people who repeatedly let me down?” If the answer is “no”, then you can behave accordingly. But, if the answer is “yes”, you must renew your commitment. If need be, you must make your resolutions over again, every day, month, and year of your life.
That’s why New Year’s resolutions are important. They are ways of reminding yourself where you want to go and what you have to do to get there. However, you are human, you can trip and fall along the way, get lost, lose your sense of direction or forget your purpose. But, after having done so, you can get up, reorient, recommit and follow your resolution, at least until the next time you stumble. So I encourage each of you, who have already broken your New Year’s resolutions to think about them, reevaluate and, if you still want to be thin, exercise, stop smoking, stop drinking, or spend more time with your family and friends, make that commitment again. You see, you not only have the right to stumble and fall or fail, you also have the right to be proud of yourself, to excuse your failures and, most of all, to accept the fact that you deserve success, good luck, good living, and love from your friends, family and every individual you interact with throughout the course of your life.