Franke: A New but Old List of Resolutions
I am not going to resolve in 2021 to exercise more or lose weight. Sure, I need to do both those things and will work on them, but I won’t take the cheap way out and declare them to be my New Year resolutions. They are too easy to make and even easier to break.
Rather, I am looking inward at my character and resolve to focus on those positive aspects which ought to define it and personify it to others. I’ve identified nine personal attributes that bear improving. I think this would be a good list for everyone but I must begin with me.
Here is my list of nine resolutions. Just writing about them has given me a good start toward keeping them.
- It’s easy to love those closest but what about those who really get on your nerves? Love must be unconditional or it isn’t love at all; it is little more than affectionate tolerance. Then there are those I don’t even know, billions of them around the world. I already set aside one day each week to pray for those I don’t know. Why just one day?
- I had a work colleague who used to remind everyone that attitude is a choice and he chose to be happy. Living a life of joy seems so much better than one of disappointment and disgruntlement. I will remind myself to enjoy the routine of everyday life, not least during the COVID lockdowns.
- Everyone wishes for peace on earth, but the peace of the Christmas message also speaks to relationships among people. People of goodwill can disagree on politics, sports or whatever yet still exist peacefully with each other. I will try very, very hard to not start any arguments and to ratchet down any started by others. I will strive to ensure that my discussions with others exhibit more light than heat.
- Most people, my wife excepted, consider me a patient person. Even so, I still must work on showing patience when others are in a hurry or when I want to hurry them along.
- Lady MacBeth thought her husband was “too full of the milk of human kindness” but we all know how she turned out. Kindness is so much more rewarding than getting even or holding grudges. “A soft answer turneth away wrath,” in the inimitable style of the King James Version. Whenever I am about to respond in kind to a harsh word, I’ll remember the proverb.
- Everyone wants to be good and do good but one’s true goodness can only be found in the eyes of others. I suspect that success on this one is dependent on progress with the other eight.
- At risk of being immodest, I think I can safely say that those who know me trust me to keep my word. That’s not enough. Faithfulness requires me to go the extra mile to earn the confidence of others and instill in them the assurance that I will be there for them whenever they need someone.
- I am not a violent or temperamental person but I still need to demonstrate more gentleness in my intercourse with others. It’s easy with my young grandchildren but I can be better at it with grown-ups too. An encouraging word, a warm smile and an understanding attitude are marks of gentleness.
- The last is probably the most important. If I don’t improve my self control, I can’t possibly realize improvement in the other eight. My plan is to recite this list when I feel control starting to slip.
These nine resolutions are ambitious and quite different from the typical list. They are inwardly focused yet with clear outward manifestation. They all must reside first in my heart, continually, and sometimes they will pour out when the base part of my nature doesn’t want them to. I hope that is often.
As a first step toward improving my character, I will come clean and admit that I can’t claim pride of authorship for this list. It is nearly 2,000 years old.
But then, St. Paul was writing for the ages.
Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review, is formerly associate vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.