Sir Francis Bacon said, “It’s not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.” (http://thinkexist.com/quotations/integrity/)
In that light, it is not what we plan, but what we carry through that makes our New Year’s resolutions meaningful. We can make elaborate schemes to be fifty pounds lighter, or to save fifty dollars each month, but unless we have integrity, we will never have the power to make those changes.
Integrity is the elbow grease that keeps our resolutions intact. We can make a thousand promises, but we will break every one of them if we do not have the willpower to say, “I will keep my promise no matter what happens.” That is integrity!
I was taught as a girl to make decisions before temptation arose. It is easier to say “no” to illegal drugs or immoral behavior if we have preprogrammed our response. “No thanks, I’m not into that.”
The more we rehearse it in our mind, the easier it is to say. Rehearse it long enough and the response is automatic. We do not even have to think about it.
It is like a pitcher in baseball. The more he throws the ball, the less he has to think about it. Learning to drive is a perfect example. When we first start driving, we have to think about watching the center of our lane, rather than the oncoming cars. We have to think about putting the car in drive, turning on the blinkers, and pushing on the brake. After a while, we do everything automatically. I tell my teens, “Always practice good driving habits and the habits will keep you safe.”
If we do not preprogram our resolutions, we will fall into our old habits. How do we preprogram resolutions?
First, we must make an iron-clad decision never to break a promise to anyone, including ourselves. When we value our commitments, we will be more selective about the promises we make. If we know we will have to keep our promises, or jeopardize our integrity, we will think twice before we make commitments.
We will also consider carefully the kinds of resolutions we make. Keep priorities in the right place; always keep appointments and, finally, be ready to serve.
It is easy to be selfish when we make resolutions. We want to be a perfect size ten. We want to make lots of money so we can buy the latest gadgets. We want to reach the top of the corporate ladder – but none of those priorities guarantee happiness.
In fact, most of them bring sadness at the end of the journey. A perfect size ten makes people envious; the latest gadget gets broken or wears out; and sadly, the corporate ladder only leads to another ladder going nowhere.
Happiness comes from doing the right thing for the right reason with those who love you the most. The ones who love us most are our spouses, our children and our friends.
Of course, God loves us too. The order of importance makes all the difference. One way to figure that out is by asking who will be with us the longest. God has been and will be with us forever; our spouse is an eternal partner, and our children will be there to take over where we left off. They carry our legacy.
Our friends are with us as long as they live nearby. They may contact us occasionally, but they are only as close as the commitment we make to keep them. New friends come and replace old ones. We may find friends in our corporate world, but they too are transient.
Now that we have determined our priorities, we must make appointments that keep us close to those important people in our lives. First, make an appointment to talk to God twice a day.
Build your relationship with Him by treating Him like your best friend and confidant. Share you feelings with Him. Thank Him for His kindness and expect Him to be there in your daily life as an unseen benefactor. He will be there.
Make appointments with your spouse and make sure nothing takes precedence. If you have a date night planned and the office calls, say, “I have a meeting I can’t get out of.”
Our children should take a prominent place in our lives. We are the template of what they will become. How we treat them will make a difference in how they treat their children, and their children will follow that pattern. We need to set resolutions to make sure our template is a good one.
Our friends and our job take last place. Of course, we are leaving tracks wherever we go, so every person should be treated as though he/she will remember our deeds forever. I heard a saying once, “People will forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Part of our relationship with God is being able to do what He wants us to do. We are His hands and feet. He blesses the world through us. Sometimes in our prayers, when we ask, He will give us the names of those He wants us to bless, but more often than not, we find opportunities to serve in unexpected places.
One day, I was at the hospital with my mother-in-law. She had congestive heart problems and the doctors would only allow one person in the room with her. My sister-in-law had to go in with her, because she was in charge of giving medication.
I was consigned to the waiting room. My thoughts were on my troubles and I picked up a magazine. Then I noticed a young Native American man sitting on a chair across the room. His face was drawn. Tears slid down his cheeks.
Before I thought about it, I walked over to him and asked how he was doing. He looked up, somewhat surprised, but he somehow sensed that I was his friend. He told me that his sister was having her baby prematurely and that she was in a serious condition. They did not know if she would live.
I instinctively put my arms around him and we both cried. God’s comfort flowed between us. I didn’t know his name or his family, but God did. I was blessed to give God’s gift.
The other day, I was picking up food from the food bank to take to a widow in our church. She had been ill for a long time. The lady at the food bank tossed me a bag of candy.
I didn’t want to refuse the candy, even though I knew I didn’t need it. I didn’t want to make her feel bad. I thought, “I’ll just give it to my husband, or I’ll find someone to share it with.”
As I drove to the widow’s house, I saw a young man in her backyard busily chopping her wood. I greeted him and the thought came to me, “Give your candy to him.”
I said, “I have a treat for your labor.” He looked up, surprised as I handed him the candy, but he said, “Thank you.” When I went in the house, the widow told me that he was on probation and was working off some service hours. I smiled inside.
God cared about that young man. His service was compelled, but he had felt the pat of God’s hand because he was giving of himself.
Our resolutions will work better for us if we have the integrity to make them come true, but we are much more successful if we include God in the picture. He can shape our days into happiness if we keep our priorities in the right place. In the end, it will not matter if we have a size ten body; it will matter if we have a size ten spirit filled with charity. PD