I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Setting lofty goals because it’s January has never worked for me. And judging by the unused time management calendars and exercise equipment at spring yard sales, I’m not alone at falling short of good intentions.
But I lost six pounds last month without even trying. So, I thought this year would be different. Thank goodness, I didn’t announce my resolution before I stepped on the scales. You guessed it, those lost pounds were back. Apparently, weeks of Christmas cookies, cheese balls and a gluttony of chocolate are not tactics for losing weight.
It felt good while it lasted (the idea of a resolution), but not good enough to stay with it.
I wasn’t committed. I was not resolute.
The last night of winter break, my granddaughter* asked us to pray for her first day back at school.
We were puzzled. She loved school, but her face was filled with dread.
“Keep your fingers crossed I don’t have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” ** she said.
“Why would it be?” I asked.
“Are you kidding?” she replied, stunned at my daftness.
“I have a mouth full of gear. I can barely talk and I’m wearing brand new glasses. That’s a lot of new things to be teased about. And fifth graders are not kind.”
“You’re right about that,” I said and shuddered (for effect).
Then I asked her if she thought anyone else would be nervous about coming back. Did she think others would be feeling dread or anxiety?
Of course, she did.
“The truth is,” I said, “we are all afraid of something. Sometimes when we don’t like ourselves, we take it out on other people.”
For once, she agreed with me and told me she had made a resolution to be nicer. She asked if I had noticed. I had.
But I didn’t know it was intentional.
“I didn’t announce it,” she told me. “I just got tired of how mean my friends were. So, I decided to be kinder.”
It was working. We noticed it around the house and in her conversations at dinner. She seemed more compassionate and polite. She still argued with everything you said, but apologized when she realized she was doing it.
Watching the eleven-year-old carry out such a strong resolution without verbal fanfare, I realized my weight goal didn’t fail because I didn’t announce. It didn’t materialize because I put no effort into it.
It’s never about what we say. It’s always about what we do.
Our kids taught us that when they were young. If we told them we were going to the beach on Saturday and it rained, they were not sympathetic. The reality of changing circumstances meant nothing. What we “said” was all that mattered.
For every “We’ll see” or “I’ll think about it” a parent uses, there are at least five bad stories like ours to support it. What we learn from them is the value of our word.
We say things every day we don’t mean and make promises we can’t keep. We want it to be so. We feel it should be said or we don’t know what to say.
Words jump out of our mouths without a thought. Before we know it, we’ve committed to a gym membership. Our spouse thinks we love watching “The Vikings”. And we start to believe that by just saying “things will be better” they really will.
Resolutions are not words, they are work. Change doesn’t happen because we say it will. It happens when we put in the effort.
I’m not worried about those Christmas pounds. I know they’ll be gone again soon.
In the meantime, I’m hoping something in my life will move me to be as resolute as that eleven-year-old. How about you?
* At the time of this writing, my granddaughter and I are involved in a civil dispute over my supposed misspelling of her fake name. Until this dispute is settled, I am prevented from using said name in print. While I may not agree with her grounds, I gave her my word. And I want that to mean something.
** Why 5th graders worry about ‘ terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day‘s.