RESOLVE OR NOT?
By NANCY PATRICK
My upbringing, though a simple one, taught me about worthwhile values. I confess that I have materialistic moments and desires, but I strive to keep them at a minimum. When I contemplate my New Year’s resolutions, I try to keep them simple, unselfish, and realistic. I consider several categories of behavior for my own life.
One area of life that has always affected me, as it does millions of others, involves diet. As an overweight child, I began dieting at the age of 10 when my doctor ordered a strict food regimen. As many overweight people, I have struggled with weight and diet my entire life. I have learned that resolutions to lose 50 pounds this year may create unrealistic expectations. A better resolution, one to eat healthy and exercise regularly, promises more success with less stress.
Annual spiritual assessment, another area of concern, offers realistic and moderate management practices. For example, reading the Bible through might seem doable; however, a more realistic beginning such as reading a daily devotional or a Bible chapter seems more palatable. As with all changes in routine, moderation offers the key to success.
Another integral aspect of my life worth evaluation and reassessment involves attitude. Today’s world provides plenty of opportunity for anger, frustration, bitterness, distrust, and selfishness (add any number of negative adjectives). During holidays, nonprofit organizations bombard the airwaves with pleas for innumerable worthy charities. One can easily become overwhelmed with the impossibility of solutions for all these needs (animals, orphans, refugees, homeless people, victims of natural disasters, and the numerous local organizations and institutions).
How can good people face these needs with an attitude of sympathy, generosity, gratitude, and tolerance? Caught between sympathy and generosity, I give what I can to whom I feel led. Realistically, neither I nor anyone else can meet all these needs. I must not let the world’s tragedies overwhelm me to the point of depression or despair.
I have to trust that just as I feel led to certain causes, others will feel led to fill other needs. In gratitude, I thank God for what I have—health, home, food, “enough”—and ask that I may always share my good fortune. I never presume to deserve what I have; neither do I presume that I will always have it.
Another much-practiced resolution relates to addictions such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and even food. Addicts resolve annually to break their addictions, but few succeed. Along with the desire for freedom from addiction, those suffering can enhance their chances of success by coupling attendance at 12-step or rehab programs with their personal resolutions. Relationships with addicts require commitment from both the addicts and those who love them.
Another facet of life that requires constant vigilance relates to money. Money, though not evil, seduces many people. We need money to live; however, Americans have one of the highest living standards in the world, aspiring to well-paying careers, large homes, luxury vehicles, and fashionable clothing. Although not evil in itself, the desire for more and more material things can corrupt us. Rather than allowing ourselves to live in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction that distorts our better selves, we can choose to live simply and frugally, spending the superfluous money to help others.
As we reflect on the past year(s), I hope that you and I will remember simpler times when much less satisfied us. When I married many years ago, my church hosted a generic bridal shower that provided my husband and me with almost all the necessities to set up housekeeping. We had no “selections” in those days. We gratefully accepted the generosity and love of our friends who wished us a long and happy marriage. Young people did not negotiate with their parents about how much money they could spend for an extravagant wedding.
As I think about my values and material desires, I plan to consider the monetary costs as well as the true need before I purchase something. If that money would be better spent elsewhere, will I gladly give it?
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.