The making of New Year resolutions is less widespread than it used to be. Perhaps too many of them were the result of end of year over-indulgence in unaccustomed rich food, drink, or other pleasures of the Christmas season. As we enter January we contemplate spreading waistlines and shrinking bank balances and resolve to put things right. So we make New Year resolutions which involve eating and drinking more sensibly and going to the gym more often.
But, of course, they rarely if ever work as we had intended, particularly if we have over-indulged in resolutions and made too many of them for there to be any realistic hope that they might be kept. Our failure to keep them in turn brings about guilty feelings and lowers our self-esteem. It isn’t much fun going into the dark, cold and already rather miserable days of January with the added burden of feeling that we have let ourselves down by making promises we haven’t kept. And if, for the most part, we haven’t kept them, what was the point of making them in the first place? So perhaps we ought not to regret the passing of the New Year resolution too much.
Maybe not; yet there is something significant and important about making resolutions and not just at New Year. At his trial Socrates famously and truly said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Many of us drift (or these days rush) through life without taking significant time to examine whether we are heading in the direction we feel to be right, still less whether we have made any progress in dealing with our faults and failings.
At least New Year resolutions give us the opportunity to look seriously at some of these things and to make some effort to amend what clearly needs changing. Such resolutions certainly don’t have to be limited to reactions to seasonal over-indulgence. The way we sometimes treat other people will often be where we need to start. Providing we don’t induce guilt by trying to change too much at once, and providing we remember that God both forgives failure and supplies strength, resolutions – New Year and otherwise – can be a valuable reality check.