Higher Definition, Higher (new year’s) Resolution(s)

I have to admit to you, somewhat reluctantly, that I have a rebellious streak in me.   I am slow to admit it because everyone in my family that watched me insist on never matching my socks for 25 years will say “duh,” and others of you will know that when I see a sign that says keep of the grass, I ardently and deliberatively…

….comply and keep walking without trampling the grass even a little.   I am a “good kid,” but the kind of good kid who likes to break very specific sorts of things.  One of the effects of the rebellious streak, however, is that whatever behavior or thing I swear of entirely on Monday, is probably exactly what I will order for lunch on Tuesday.  I just don’t love rigid rules. 

This is one of the reasons that New Year’s Resolutions have not only been a waste, but I also dread the conversations that asks us to consider them. They stress me out.    But it turns out that it is not just because I have a particular kind of personality.   I actually keep having the kinds of conversations with others about resolutions that not only make me concerned for the little tiny bit of damage we do to ourselves when we promise to be better, at just about anything….  But it makes me concerned because there is something in those empty promises that seem to be driving most of what is driving us all crazy in the moral and political climate of our day.    (There.  I said it.  Now I have to beg you to keep reading because I used both moral and political in the same sentence.. hang in there… I promise I will eventually talk about sex. )

I know that I have never been terribly successful with any kind of New Year’s resolution (except for one…and I think I can explain why).  But I also know that if people, in general, were any good at keeping to their resolutions we would be celebrating those accomplishments somehow and telling each other our stories of growth and transformation every New Year’s Eve, rather than fondling around for a new resolution with hardly any memory at all of what I swore to last year.   

Most of it lies in this one, oft missed, and sometimes deadly word:  Should.  

When we pick our new year’s resolutions we listen primarily to the voice in our head telling us what we don’t like about ourselves (usually in terms of pounds and kilograms). Or perhaps we have seen someone else’s a really good idea on Pinterest or heard something clever on Oprah’s podcast.  

In Short, most of our resolutions come from focusing on our inadequacies (areas where we are challenged and perhaps not gifted). Or by borrowing other people’s ideas for how we should be living our lives.  

Should.  Should.  Should.

But “should” is about being over there when I am not over there.   Prayer and promises seem to be preoccupied with  being who *else* I need to be for others, but it quickly turns in to being someone, somewhere, other than you and your stuff.   Unfortunately, in doing so we set up as our enemy the very engine that drives so much of human behavior: desire.   If you think about it…. (Ok, take a second to think about it)…. When we make New Year’s resolutions or when we give something up for advent or for lent  (which is a slightly different rant I will draw you in to elsewhere). We are usually intentionally choosing to do something that insults our desires head-on.  


Red meat is an anathema to me.  

All forms of Oreos must be burned!!!!   

Vikram Yoga every. single. day.


We either suspect these things are a problem for us or more likely, we see those things about which we plan to be resolute and figure it will help move us toward the goal that we really really really want, {actually want in our deepest selves …that we wish we could just have, already, but without having to put forth much more effort}.  I mean that if we already skipped chocolate, were vegan and …well… enjoyed setting Oreos on fire, …then the above resolutions would not seem worth making? Right?  

Every year for lent, I give up robbing banks.   It is easy. I am always successful.  I get to cash in my piety points….

And it never does anything to transform me or help me grow.  

Honestly, the set up for failure in our resolutions Is that we choose something and simply pose our will against our desires.  We aren’t congruent about our commitments and so we probably pretty swiftly fail quickly.   And once we have failed, it feels like a get out of jail free card….


What I want to suggest, and this is far more than a self-help technique, is that we start listening to our desires, and simply try to level up with them….   Which will mean some critical reflection on what it means to level up with our desires.   Let me try a few and then we will leave it up to you to see what you can come up with and make work for you. 

“I am going to savor chocolate as the luxury it is”

(And therefore not make it a staple in my diet.  I might buy BETTER chocolate, I might eat it much much slower and less of it more regularly, but I insist on refining the desire, not combatting it or dismissing it). You might be amazed what your willpower  can do in these circumstances when it isn’t your enemy.    

“I will keep my room spotless” (How about, “I will appreciate my possessions and not see them as a burden, but pay attention to their purpose and their finite lifecycle”)

“I will lose 10 pounds /I will work out every day / I will fit in a size 8” (I will discover, explore, and experiment, with how my body gets things done, and see how I can get the most out of it)

Here is the sexy part I promised-ish,

“I promise I won’t spend so much time looking at porn or lusting about other people”

(How about “I will cultivate and actively practice intimacy over accessibility in how my body connects with another’s body”).  

This year I am not promising to work on things harder.  I am promising to do things that resonate with my reality, my variables as a limited human, and the higher level of my aspirations.  This requires a significantly greater element of discernment

Ok, Ready?  Wanna know what mine is going to be?  “I am going to really dive deep into what it means to be in my late 40s, and milk the best of it.”   …Yeah, I might lose weight. I might get healthier. I might clean my room.  I might seek and even find some wisdom.  …I might watch more Ellen and eat more soup.  At this end of the spaghetti noodle, I cannot see what I will be kissing the other side.  I just know I like spaghetti so the trip is worth it.   

God, by the way, being all Divine and such, did not build your body to be its own worst enemy…  Manufacturing specialist do not intentionally build cars with systems that work against each other (and God is wiser than our manufacturers).  

I guess I am just wondering what it means, in its simplest terms that we think we can do better… and to believe that “better” is not sacrifice alone, but refining our ability to love good things.  

There is some powerful theology in the childhood prayer, “God is great, God is good, let us thank God for our food. Amen”.  

I am reminded of Psalm 34 that reminds us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”   Or  Psalm 37 that says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and [the Lord] will give you the desires of your heart.”  Let me reinterpret that one for you…..   Practice wanting God and God will give you everything you want.  ….that is a delight.

Despite the recent press, God is actually good.  And what God has made is good.   If you want to make a higher resolution than you have in the past,  move toward that piece where you delighting the Lord, or at least just asking to level up in what God has for you.   

Here is what I am telling you to add to your equation.… Delight.   You will probably have to reflect on how that will actually make your life better and not merely be a commitment to hedonism that takes away from others…. But we are grown-ups, and frankly, you can do this.   Make a higher resolution…. Delight in something this year. 

Me?  I will be over here delighting in my late 40’s…. which by the way has nothing to do with Matlock and hardly anything to do with cardigan sweaters (but maybe a little… damn you…) and maybe (ABSOLUTELY) a new skin care regimen.  But that is the whole point.  I don’t know 100% of where this year’s journey will take me.  I am resolving to travel well.  There are, however, a lot of surprises ahead, I cannot being to fathom. 

May the good Lord (who is actually good) make it so.  Amen.  

Oh.  And Have a happiness New Year.