This is true for one simple reason: I didn’t make any! (Before you accuse me of Pharisaical self-righteousness or smug self-satisfaction, know this: Integrity is not my strongest attribute, temptations consider me an inviting refuge and my self-control sometimes resembles a dog trying to ignore squirrels.)
I CAN crank up my hypocrisy to extreme and dangerous levels, though, when I read that, by January 8th, 25% of most resolutions are already cast aside, and that by the end of the calendar year, only 10% will remain fully operational.
How then to amend my sinful life and start this year with an eye towards righteousness? Not by relying on my self-control, whose neural underpinnings may be short-lived or shallow—and thus unreliable—most of the time. According to David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northeastern University, I would more likely be able to straighten out the kinks in my behavior by strengthening my relationships with others. He cites his and others’ research that questions the effectiveness of purely rational approaches to life-change. He suggests instead that inside of strong social bonds, I will find opportunities for acting with integrity and self-control. That’s where I can practice gratitude, compassion, justifiable self-pride and other social emotions—both what he terms “resume virtues” (those that underlie my professional success) and “eulogy virtues” (those for which I want to be remembered).
DeSteno points at something reassuring for me: These basic elements of a godly life—at any time of year—nestle nicely inside of everything I know about a Christ-centered approach to living. Perhaps my most important resolve in this new year could be to re-orient my spirit towards Jesus’ life and teaching. In the year ahead—especially now in Epiphany—I think I can do that!
No matter how much I prefer to chase squirrels….
For further details, see DeSteno’s “The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions” in the December 29, 2017 New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/29/opinion/sunday/the-only-way-to-keep-your-resolutions.html?emc=edit_th_20171231&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=55511797 or look for his newest book, Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion, and Pride.
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