Every year, millions resolve to begin a new year with commitments to personal improvement, from diet and exercise to intellectual and spiritual pursuits. These are worthy and should be pursued with hopeful realism.
In this essay, I want to suggest four resolutions that are doable, apply to all dimensions of life, and will help us empower others toward a flourishing life and community. These resolutions come in two couplets. The first concerns our inner motivations and speech and the second our personal integrity and competencies in daily work. I write these as a Christian, with a deep love for the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Scriptures that comprise the Holy Bible. These principles are applicable, however, to people of all faiths or none.
The first pair are found in Psalm 19:14 where the author desires that his words and inner meditations would be acceptable before God. Practically, this is a call for continual self-examination of our motives and speech. Do we desire to honor God and bring good to our world, or is life all about our advantage, position, or power? When we must confront issues, are we doing so with a view to peacemaking or winning for its own sake? And, in our speech, are we capitulating to reactions and vulgarity or pausing long enough to respond with kindness and wisdom?
The second duo is found in Psalm 78:72, where the writer commends King David’s leadership, noting that he shepherded God’s people with “integrity of heart and skillful hands.” As we look to a new year, this pair of attributes is a great resolution for our daily work. We are all stewards of the opportunities, relationships, resources, and tasks each day brings. Will we continually examine our motives and see how things fit together? And will we grow in our capacities and competencies and increase the skillfulness of our work? Apathy is waiting at the door to paralyze our preferred future. Active learning will help us and all around us thrive.
Soren Kierkegaard, 19th century Danish thinker, wrote a book entitled, “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing.” The title is the message and it sums up these four resolutions well. When our hearts and hands, intents and actions, motives and words align, we are at peace and the world is a better place.