Failures and Resolutions

I was pretty sure I was not going to write a New Year’s post but I just couldn’t help myself. To create a resolution or not too, that is one of the questions. The others include: If I did make resolutions, what would they be? Would I be any more successful than last time? What happens if I don’t make any resolutions? Does anything really change and what is it that really makes the difference?

We often hear making resolutions is not a helpful thing to do as most dissolve within a few weeks of the new year and there is always a well-written article written on how the failure to keep a resolution is worse than creating it. But in the big picture, I find the concept of resolutions to be a good thing. I’m not talking about the trivial resolution where we aspire to be instantly successful on every single one of our life’s ambitions.

The resolutions that work are those that begin my taking inventory of life, exploring what needs to change and mature mature, and counts the cost of what needs to be sacrificed. Creating a plan, seeking accountability, celebrating the victories, and picking yourself up after the failures is part of what leads to better things.

There is great truth in the maxim “failure is a great teacher.” The internet tells me the quote was made famous by Steve Harvey (but I suspect that it’s been around for a while). In any case, its obvious meaning points us to the learning opportunities presented in failure. Not only is there learning in failure but there is the potential for great motivation in failure. Without the sting of it, we might find ourselves content with our doldrums, lulls and sentiments of apathy.

Speaking only for myself, on good days, failure keeps me humble. On bad days, failure pushes me to lose confidence and wallow in frustration and self-pity. On good days, success leads me to thanksgiving. On bad days, success can lead to over-confidence and upon realization, wallow in misery and personal resentment. The next healthy moment reminds me of the goodness found in failure. This is part of the cycle and sometimes we maintain healthy emotional and spiritual rhythms and sometimes we’re living on a roller-coaster.

It doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, it shouldn’t. Hence our motivation to resolve to change such things.

I looked back at my social media resolutions post from last year. I did ok. Not great, not terrible. It helped me keep my social media consumption and participation on my mind all year. Being sensitive to control, I was fairly conscious to not being controlled by social media. But despite my intentions and improvements, there is room for growth here. So what started out as restraining myself from commenting on everything from opinion to contributing to the public expression of affirmation, outrage, etc. was good. One of the low points was not being able to read a book without feeling I needed to post a review about it (“Must be efficient!”).

This reminded me of a particular scene in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters which is a satirical book about two demons trying to ruin people’s lives. In one particular scene, Uncle Wigglesworth tells his nephew, Screwtape to not allow “his human” to read a book for pleasure. Instead, the human must be reminded that he must remember everything about the book so he can share his findings with his friends and be more interesting at parties. I’m sure if blogs were a part of Lewis’ world, Wigglesworth would have included that too.

This was another area where I could not get my act together, and so this summer I resolved to stop reading and posting book reviews.  This created freedom and I ended up reading more this summer than any other previously (and I bought myself a new reading chair. The stipulation I set for myself is that I cannot sit on it holding my Macbook).

I know this is a bit weird. I’ve over-shared on the quirks. But if you have ever aspired to read 20 pages …. just after you check your Twitter/Facebook and had a half hour slip away while the book has stayed open underneath your computer, then you know what I’m saying. I hope to keep reading, I hope for many other things. And I even hope to post some reviews as I find reading and sharing as a valuable thing (and frankly it’s been an enormous help to me to get a book  recommendation from the blogs I appreciate and I would love to contribute).

In any case, I failed in many other areas as well online and offline. Again, there is room for growth and improvement. If you’re looking for a starting point, I highly recommend Fail: Finding Hope and Grace … written by J.R. Briggs. Which ironically, is the last book review I’ve posted and the only exception I made on book reviews since the summer.

We should never pass up an opportunity to better our lives. Maybe you’ve created a resolution or two and feel iffy about it. I’d love to encourage you to keep moving forward. And maybe the word “resolution” and the modifier “New Year’s” is a turn-off to you. That’s ok. This is not a post on guilting you to create a resolution. Rather, in considering our failures and weaknesses and deficiencies, we can puruse change, strength and maturity. Whether we find the calendar saying January or July, taking action would better our lives, our inner circle of family and friends, our communities, and contribute to the redemptive work of the Kingdom of God. May we be faithful with the opportunities afforded to us. 


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