There’s no official history on New Year’s resolutions, but many if not most, religions permit the making of vows of various sorts. In present-day culture, these promises often focus on diet, addictions, relationships and the use of free time.
Even though there’s no authoritative top 10 list for self-reformation, losing weight, praying more, quitting bad habits, being on time or other self-disciplines would probably populate such a list if it did exist.
USA.gov, a federal government website, suggests a purely secular set, but one the faithful are unlikely to find objectionable. It proffers that we “lose weight, volunteer to help others, quit smoking, get a better education, get a better job, save money, get fit, eat healthy food, manage stress, manage debt, take a trip; reduce, reuse and recycle; and drink less alcohol.”
Also on the secular side, Psychology Today Magazine found that few of the determined resolvers do well past the first two weeks of the new year and that “by February, people are backsliding and by the following December, most people are back where they started, often even further behind.”
Yet about half of Americans make some resolutions each year, starting each year with similar optimism and ending with the same limited success.
The Daily News turned to local spiritual advisers for their suggestions for a more doable resolutions for 2014.
Rabbi Stuart Federow of Clear Lake’s Congregation Shaar Hashalom offered a high standard.
“In the coming year, may each of us live up to the highest ideals of the religion we profess,” he said. “Because the way we treat ourselves, each other, and God, is the only real witness.”
Rabbi Yitzchok Schmukler, director of Chabad of the Bay Area, agreed that January was a good time to refocus and add purpose to life.
“I sometimes suggest that people start every morning with a short statement thanking God for returning our soul to us, refreshed and anew, granting us the gift of life for another day,” he said. “This idea is based on a one-sentence Jewish prayer called ‘Modeh Ani’ (Hebrew for ‘I give thanks’). It is recited immediately upon awakening, even before getting out of bed. What this does is start your day off on the right foot.”
The Rev. Ted Duck of Pine Drive Community Church said that he had given up on most of the common resolutions, but still has a few which he recommends.
“By Jan. 7, most of those well-intentioned resolutions will be summarily dispatched to the well-worn ‘failed resolution’ file,” he said. “But there are several I have made and to this day have been able, with God’s help, to keep.”
He offered his top three practical resolutions for fellow Christians: “To continuously see the world, the people, as Christ sees them; to know God more intimately, seeing him with spiritual eyes; and sharing my faith in Jesus Christ with at least one person each day.”
David Capes, a professor at Houston Baptist University, suggested that recording one’s thoughts and insights might be a useful tool for many to pick up this year.
“Journal every day,” he said. “If they don’t have a journal, they should start one. If they have one, they should resolve to journal more consistently.”
He also added that many believers will want to read through their scriptures beginning with the new year.
“One popular resolution is to read through the Bible in 2014,” he said. “There are Bibles published just for that. And there are plans on the Internet.”
Polymath Stephen Duncan suggested a simple Orthodox prayer for all Christians during the new year.
“Many years ago the Orthodox world discovered the joy of the Jesus Prayer,” he said. “It has helped many to come to holiness. ‘Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.’
“In those simple words we find our place, loved and forgiven by God.”
Happy New Year from Our Faith.
Rick Cousins can be reached at email@example.com.