As our calendars turn from 2022 to 2023, some of us will commit to starting new things. Healthier eating, regular exercise, pursuing a degree, praying regularly, or simply adjusting our attitude.
Others will resolve to stop something that diminishes their lives. They’ll quit smoking, cut down on the alcohol, or curb their time on social media.
Most New Year’s resolutions involve starting or stopping, and many of those resolutions aim at shaping us into a better version of ourselves. There’s not the first thing wrong with seeking to expand our knowledge, to take better care of our bodies, or to engage in meaningful spiritual practices.
But if we’re doing any of these things in order to make us into a better version of ourselves, then it might be best for us to ask a question before we get going. Why? Why are we setting out on what appears to be a program of self-improvement?
If your goal is to make yourself lovable, respectable, valuable, or acceptable to others, stop. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
Other people’s applause will not make your life meaningful. At least, not for long. It will just make you anxious. Your self-worth will depend upon the shifting and unpredictable whim of others’ approval.
Besides, applause always fades. So you’ll be driven to climb back on the stage over and over to get another round of it. That is simply exhausting.
Let’s assume that you couldn’t care less about what others think of you. There’s still a bit of self-examination to do. Are you starting something new or stopping that old pattern to make yourself more acceptable to ………….. you?
I’m not sure where I first heard this, but it makes a lot of sense to me. If you can’t love yourself at your current weight, there’s not much chance that you’ll love yourself when you’re ten pounds lighter. This lesson about dieting goes for pretty much every other self-improvement program.
Look, I’m not saying that you should blow off your doctor’s or priest’s or friend’s or mother’s or trainer’s advice. It’s your motivation I’m urging you to check out.
You see, if your principle challenge is that you can’t accept yourself—you can’t love yourself—just as you are, no amount of personal redecorating will get you there.
Conditional love is conditional love. It always puts a trapdoor under your feet. You’re just saying to yourself, “I’ll love you if and so long as…” In other words, the emotional floor could always open up beneath you.
I’m not so sure that I have an answer to this for everybody. But I’m a Jesus-follower. This is what he teaches and it works for me.
Start with this. “I’m not perfect.” And really mean it.
Admit that you’ve gotten things wrong. Hurt people. Damaged yourself. Sometimes you did that with good intentions or without even realizing it. At other times you knew exactly what you were doing.
Admit that you don’t know everything. You’ve been wrong. You’re probably wrong about important things right now.
Admit that you grow irritated around some people. Deep down, you know it’s about you and not about them. But you don’t always act on that.
Okay. Say it with me. Not at my urging, but at Jesus’s own invitation. “I’m not perfect.”
Now the paradoxical thing about saying this at Jesus’s invitation is that, well, Jesus is already right there with you issuing the invitation. And he’s not going anywhere no matter what.
Jesus, you see, is God with us. Love in the flesh. Love has come to us before we even admit that we’re imperfect. That’s unconditional love.
Jesus teaches us that we discover the depths of his love for us precisely when we admit that we are not perfect. His love for us is gift. Pure gift. Not a reward.
We begin to own ourselves as the Beloved by accepting ourselves as imperfect.
So, that’s my gracious resolution. I will seek to admit that I am imperfect.
Sure, I’m going to try to add flexibility and balance exercises (ugh!) to my weight training and walking. Pray with greater depth. And read a few more serious books than I did last year.
But I won’t be doing any of this stuff to make myself more acceptable to myself or to anyone else. Just like you, I am already loved.
For more about this theme check out my book A Resurrection Shaped Life. Click here to learn more and read reviews.
Thanks Bishop Jake. I’ve put this up on Facebook as a reminder to all my friends of our common fragility. Happy New Year for 2023. Agape, Fr. Ron
Happy New Year Ron! I know you’ve already greeted 2023. Meet you there in a few hours
All this is just so wise. And, not so incidentally in my eyes, so about connecting. (I’m the person who is titling my memoir, Seeking Connection)
As an aside, I’m sure there must be a way to do this, but how can on person be both Chancellor and Bishop. Both seem like big jobs.
And I look forward to hearing how it’s going. As for the Chancellor role it certainly carries responsibilities. However there is also a President and a Provost for administrative and day to day operations. The Chancellor duties involve chairing the Board of Trustees as well as other governance matters. I’ll be at Sewanee a bit more now but I’ve been involved in governance for some time. My role in official occasions has also increased by a few times a year. It will require being intentional with my calendar. Fortunately I have an outstanding Executive Assistant
I have good memories of a fellowship to Sewanee to study with Prof. Marion Hatchett. It was a wonderful week. Early 1970’s.
Dear old Marion. He influenced many of us. I remember him and his classes well
One theme that I love in all your writing is that life is both incredibly hard and amazingly easy. Your pieces take us through the shift from challenge to ease. Happy New Year!
Thank you so so much! 🙏🙏🙏😊 Happy happy New Year
Perfectly imperfect in my case – I seldom set resolutions but often try to do a little better at much – an as needed basis –
Sort of like “intending to lead the new life” – daily
Happy 2023 to all – May we find Peace