Across social media this week there seems to be a LOT of attention to the coming New Year. There are countdowns, “best of 2013” lists – music, books, events, you name it. Some social media sites even offer to compile your own ‘best of 2013’ list for you – in case you forgot the highlights of your own life in the past 12 months. In the last few days of the year, we’re all looking back.
Simultaneously, however, we’re also all looking forward. There’s also a lot of attention being given to New Year’s resolutions. Groups suggested thematic resolutions to their cause, various industries offering services to assist us to keep what we resolve to do, etc. Stats show that about 60% of us make at least one resolution, and only a quarter of us will keep any of them. So while we may intend to focus on some form of self-improvement, we may not be doing it the way we’re declaring it on 01 Jan.
I see a link between the looking back and the looking forward…. specifically, that they aren’t often too well connected. I think a lot of people like to look back to the high points of the past year, but they aren’t too keen to look at the low points – or the areas where some improvement might be fitting. I think our resolutions do fail because we’ve made them too lofty, too unattainable, too spur-of-the-moment.
I think part of this is because we aren’t doing much reflection.
Looking back is not reflection, it’s simply taking stock of what was. Reflection requires us to ask ourselves the deeper, harder questions about the past – and about how we responded to what was happening. “Why didn’t I get more involved in X?” “What could I have done differently during Y?” “What was going on in my life that I reacted to Z in that way?”
Reflection takes time (as the Christmas message from Her Majesty the Queen reminded us) and it takes effort. It takes a true humility to be willing to accept our faults as well as celebrate our successes.
Yet when we reflect, we are usually involved in the very act of self-improvement. I don’t know many folks who would spend time trying to discern how they have hurt others so that they might hurt more people in the future (for example). We tend to look back – even to those dark moments – so that we can move forward in a better way. So that we can try to accept past failures and try not to make those same mistakes. So that we can look at past successes and emulate what made them of benefit to the world (not just to ourselves). And when we have this level of humble knowledge, we can make the plans for the future – resolving (if you will) to “renew ourselves in God’s love as we strive daily to become better people” (quoted from the Queen’s speech). I suspect that when we do make those resolutions, we ill make them in ways that we will be able to keep them; because they are based on knowing ourselves, our situations, our commitments to bringing about the Kingdom of God.
This New Year, I pray we will all take the time and effort to combine our looking back at the past year with the plans for the coming year, so that 2014’s ‘resolutions’ will be fruitful for us and for the world – for the love of God.