Not New Year's resolutions but New Year's restitutions. What are these restitutions and why are they better than resolutions?
To begin with, we all know that when it comes to New Year's resolutions, most folks are not all that resolute. Popular promises include:
• Lose weight
• Make better financial decisions
• Quit smoking
• Do more exciting things
• Spend more time with family and friends
• Join a gym
• Learn something new
• Do more good deeds
• Find true love
Sadly, statistics confirm that most people have abandoned these January pledges by mid-February. Why? Their top excuses are:
• Not being able to find the time
• Not having a good game plan
• Falling back into old patterns
• Feeling frustrated by the lack of results
• Forgetting why I started in the first place.
The “experts” advise us to make easier resolutions, fewer resolutions and to have a “buddy check” who helps us through the rough times-a friend who knows which resolutions we've made and holds us accountable for keeping them. This is a super strategy when it works. But when it doesn't, we may end up in red-faced embarrassment trying to avoid these buddy checkups or worse, losing their friendship altogether.
So, this year let's progress beyond the concept of “resolutions” by resurrecting one or two virtues which have become dull or tarnished, brush them off and breathe fresh life into them instead. This is the idea behind New Year's “restitutions.”
What are some examples of New Year's restitutions and why would they be a better approach than making New Year's resolutions?
Consider some of the moral virtues that we used to practice easily. Telling the truth is one. Falsehood is the moral opposite of truth and it is always wrong. Lying is intrinsically evil. The devil is often referred to as “the father of lies.” Telling the truth comes naturally to children. In fact, kids must “learn” how to lie.
Sadly, we can succumb to this temptation easily because we quickly discover that lying can have very rewarding consequences. Cheating on a test is a lie but it can get us a higher grade. Making up an excuse for missing work is a lie but it can give us a paid holiday. Filing false taxes is a lie but it can fatten our bank account. After a while, we can become better at deceiving people than telling them the truth and even walk away feeling clever for the deception.
What a wonderful New Year's “restitution” of virtue: to always tell the truth.
There are a host of other virtues that we may have practiced better in the past than we do now. Has keeping confidences given way to gossip? Has fidelity given way to cheating? Has respecting company property given way to toting home office supplies? Has chastity given way to lust? Has humility given way to boasting? And on and on.
Restitution is easier than resolution because there was a time when the virtue in question was part and parcel of our daily behavior. And reviving what we had been doing requires less effort than starting something new.
Looking back over the past year, has the goodness in our hearts become deeper or shallower? Has our relationship with Christ grown closer or farther away?
For Holy Homework: This new year, instead of making several resolutions, let's pick one moral virtue from our past and make that our new year's restitution for the future.
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