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03 January 2018

Resolutions: Our stabs at self-control.

Of course, making too many at once multiplies your difficulty level.

Speaking for myself, I’m not into new year’s resolutions. I make ’em the year round: If I see changes I need to make in my life, I get to work on ’em. I don’t procrastinate till 1 January. I may procrastinate just the same, but here’s the problem with stockpiling lifestyle changes till the new year: Come 1 January, you’re gonna have a vast pile of changes to make. It’s hard enough to make one change; now you have five. (Or 50, depending on how much of a trainwreck you are.) Multiplying your resolutions, multiplies your difficulty level.

But hey, it’s American custom. So at the year’s end a lot of folks, Christians included, begin to think about what we’d like to change about our lives. What we really should change. Too many carbohydrates? Too much time frittered away on non-productive hobbies? Too much money wasted?

Since our culture doesn’t really do self-control, you might notice most Americans’ resolutions don’t have to do with breaking a bad habit so much as adding another one—good or bad.

True, a lot of us will vow to diet and exercise. But just as many of us will choose to learn gourmet cooking, or resolve to eat at fancier restaurants more often. (Well, so long that the fancier restaurants provide American-size portions. If I only wanted a six-ounce piece of meat I’d go to In-N-Out Burger.)

True, a lot of us will vow to cut back on our screen time, whether it’s on computers, tablets, phones, or televisions. But just as many will decide time isn’t the issue; quality is. They’ll vow to watch better movies and TV shows. Time to binge-watch the shows the critics have been raving about. Time to watch classic movies instead of whatever Adam Sandler burps up. Sometimes it’s a clever attempt to avoid cutting back on screen time—’cause they know they won’t. And sometimes they honestly never think about it; screens are now just a fact of life.

As Christians, a lot of us will resolve to be better Christians. We’ll pray more. Meditate more. Go to church more consistently; maybe join one of the small groups. Read more bible—perhaps all the way through. Put more into the collection plate. Share Jesus more often with strangers and acquaintances. Maybe do some missions work.

All good intentions. Yet here’s the problem: It takes self-control to make any of these resolutions stick. It’s why, by mid-March, all these resolutions were likely abandoned. So if we’re ever gonna stick to them, we gotta begin by developing everybody’s least-favorite fruit of the Spirit.