From reading various local newspapers published here on the Island during this start of a new decade you would think the most important personal self-improvement needs to consider for our New Year’s resolutions would seem to revolve around losing weight and getting more exercise. I love it. We’re seen by the scribal class as just a materialistic crew of irresolute fat slackers obsessed by timbits and hdtv sets! Whatever happened to reflection about our need for improvement in what goes on between our ears? How about making some resolutions about who we are and our need for some real growth in our spiritual selves?
It is the tradition in the Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking world on January 1st to wish family, friends, and the supermarket checkout lady a “happy” new year. But in the Jewish world, on the Hebrew calendar’s new year, a well-wisher traditionally calls out, in translation, have a “good” year. Hebrew culture, having been around for a few thousands of years longer than ours, realizes that what is good for somebody may not always make them happy—at least not immediately.
Why? Because resolving to do and be good can be a tough resolution to keep and we may not be happy with what we discover along the way about our innate human selfishness.
The Judeo-Christian scriptures are all about resolving to seek Creator-assisted spiritual improvement. After all, God is only mildly interested in the fact that most of us could stand losing a few pounds. But Heaven knows that there is no shortage of room for real spiritual improvement in each and everyone of us.
The Apostle Paul once wrote up some ideas in his letter to the Ephesians that would still make great New Year’s resolutions in 2010. He suggested:
1) “No more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.”
2) “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry [There’s a lot to get angry about in this world, isn’t there?]—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge [Don’t be a jihadi]. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”
3) “Did you use to make ends meet by stealing [or selling street drugs]? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work. [After all, that’s why we give to charities and pay taxes].”
4) “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift [Just think about how much you can lift up those around you who need an encouraging word].” (Message translation, Ephesians 4:25-29)
You know, happiness is just a by-product that comes into the lives of those who learn to practice what is good. If you focus on having a good year of spiritual growth, then your chances of having a happy one will be increased immeasurable. So, have a Good New Year!