Jack S. Marshall Special Guest Educator

New Year’s Resolution Re-make

Written by Jack S. Marshall

Giving up on New Years’ resolutions is common because most people don’t understand the purposes of New Year’s resolutions! Many believe resolutions are made once and then lived perfectly thereafter. That is a formula for failure if I’ve ever heard one! A resolution is to resolve to do something then go at it with all our energy, recognizing we are apprentices and not the master. Apprentices are expected to have set backs but as they continue trying eventually they master what they resolved to do. C.S. Lewis understood this principle concerning continual effort versus continual success. “We may, indeed, be sure that perfect… charity will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure… pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments and, on the other that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.” (Mere Christianity p.101-102) At the beginning of every year among my resolutions is one I re-make I don’t get discouraged because I’ve been re-making it every year. After all I’m an apprentice with the goal of becoming a master, knowing I have a long way to mastery. I always start by reading my favorite motivational story that reminds me of my ultimate goal. See if it motivates you as much as it does me:

I made a vow to myself on the drive down to the vacation beach. For two weeks I would try to be a loving husband and father, totally loving, no ifs, ands or buts. The idea had come to me as I listened to a commentator on my car’s tape player. He was quoting a Biblical passage about husbands being thoughtful of their wives. Then he went on to say, “Love is an act of will. A person can choose to love.” To myself, I had to admit that I had been a selfish husband- that our love had been dulled by my own insensitivity. In petty ways, really; chiding Evelyn for her tardiness; insisting on the TV channel I wanted to watch; throwing out day-old newspapers that I knew Evelyn still wanted to read. Well, for two weeks all that would change. And it did. Right from the moment I kissed Evelyn at the door and said “That new yellow sweater looks great on you.” “Oh, Tom, you noticed,” she said, surprised and pleased, maybe a little perplexed.

After the long drive, I wanted to sit and read. Evelyn suggested a walk on the beach. I started to refuse, but then I thought, Evelyn’s been alone here with the kids all week and not she wants to be alone with me. We walked on the beach while the children flew their kites. So it went. Two weeks of not calling the Wall Street Investment firm where I am a director; a visit to the shell museum, though I usually hate museums (and I enjoyed it); holding my tongue while Evelyn’s getting ready made us late for a dinner date. Relaxed and happy, that’s how the whole vacation passed. I made a new vow to keep on remembering to choose love.

There was one thing that went wrong with my experiment, however, Evelyn and I still laugh about it today. On the last night at our cottage, preparing for bed, Evelyn stared at me with the saddest expression. What’s the matter?” I asked her. “Tom” she said, in a voice filled with distress, “do you know something I don’t?” “What do you mean?” “Well . . . that checkup I had several weeks ago . . . our doctor . . . did he tell you something about me? Tom, you’ve been so good to me . . . am I dying? It took a moment for it all to sink in. Then I burst out laughing. “No honey,” I said, wrapping her in my arms, “you’re not dying; I’m just starting to live!”(Tom Anderson, Guideposts, August 1985).

Here’s a suggestion that will help you get back on track when you have setbacks in your resolution to be a better spouse. Do something fun together. The activity is determined by the offense. Have a sliding scale; the greater the offense the greater the activity. It goes like this. Minor setbacks like he forgets to put down the toilet seat results in a dinner date. He forgets to put down the toilet seat and she falls in… a Western Caribbean cruise! He doesn’t ask for directions when driving and gets lost…a romantic movie. He doesn’t ask for directions, gets lost, runs out of gas, you end up walking home in a rain storm and the cast on your leg begins to dissolve…a Mediterranean cruise with the Greek Isles included! He forgets you made a special dinner and comes home late…go out dancing! He forgets your birthday…add a British Isles tour after you get home from the Mediterranean cruise. He forgets the box of chocolates and card for Valentine’s Day…a bouquet of red roses. He forgets your anniversary!…add diamonds to the Mediterranean cruise and British Isles tour!

Lizzie would tell you I haven’t arrived as a master of my resolution yet but she’d also say that I’m doing pretty well in my apprenticeship. So good luck on your New Years’ resolutions re-makes! Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go, the dishes need to be washed, clothes folded and I need to make reservations to take Lizzie on a Western Caribbean cruise! Happy New Year!