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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Deeper Meaning of Resolutions

The Problem of Reality

I had a friend come to me with a recent quandary.  She did not like the word "resolution".  (Oh-and I have a different friend who does not like the word "fellowship"). On both counts, the friends asked me not to use these words but to rather, come up with replacement words.  Replacement words?  It does not take long to figure out that this might get a little problematic.  The implication here is, if you don't like the connotation of a particular word, we can change the word and avoid the connotation.  Seems logical on paper, however if you do the higher math, you might find that all you've done is apply a thin coat of veneer to the reality of what really IS. Just because we rename something, doesn't mean we have removed its meaning; even though, subconsciously, this is what we would like to do.  If we are very honest we will quickly determine that this blurring of definitions is a rather common form of lying and it finds its origins, no doubt, with the Father of Lies:

Some Examples of Unreality

homemaker = domestic engineer
Divorce = marital restructuring
Boob job, nose job or any other kinds of body jobs = enhancement surgery
sin = missing the mark/being off target
dishonesty = bending the truth/white lies
laziness = procrastination
manipulating others = people pleasing
sarcasm (which means 'tearing at the flesh') = humor
Pornography = adult magazines
Strip joint = Gentlemen's Club
Pornographic content = mature audiences
Old = mature
semi-pornographic content = parental guidance suggested
Spouse = Domestic Partner
Fornicate = to living with someone who you are not married to, as though you are married
fetal homicide = abortion
Killing off older or vulnerable adults = mercy killing or euthanasia
God* = Good,  Collective Conscience, Life Force, Force, Energy, Universe, Chuck Norris, blah blah blah

(* I am pained to include the term Higher Power here because, for those in 12-Step Recovery programs, the idea of God has been so painfully maligned and associated with injury that there is a need for a God of one's understanding as a point of departure.  I have watched many a recovering addict/alcoholic expand their HP definition once they begin to trust God, themselves and others)

I am sure that you could find a dozen or so more on your own without having to work too hard.  We do this with just about everything that is difficult to talk about:  body parts, excrement, death are subject matters that have not been plumbed here, but you get the picture.

When we relativize the reality, we blur it to make it less recognizable.  A thin coat of varnish, pretties up something that might be really hard to tolerate, doesn't it?  When we redefine something to irrelevance, it can  keep us from making the necessary amends in our lives that lead to real growth.  Let me be very clear, if this sounds like a trick that an enemy might use on us to keep us away from reality, then you'd be understanding a bit of that playbook.

Welcome to Reality

So what's the solution?  Come to terms with the real meaning(s) of things. Let's starting with the word "resolution".   I suggested to my friend that she find a definition of resolution in order to plumb into a deeper meaning; obviously the meaning that she had internalized, had a foul odor.  Here's what she found instead:

Resolution is derived from the Latin verb Resolutio, originally Resolvere, meaning: to UNTIE, UNFASTEN, LOOSEN, UNBIND. The meaning has changed over the centuries meaning to change something with firm determination and will.  From Webster:  a resolve made, a fixed determination or purpose, the state of acting with fixed purpose; the answer or solution to a problem.

I just LOVE that!  If I unfasten, unbind, loosen something, I set it free.  If I make a resolution about something, I am becoming freer.  And everybody loves freedom, right?  I can do things in freedom.  I can become more me.  I can be more available to the pursuits that bring me true happiness and joy. I can pursue my heart's desire.  I can only pursue this as a free person, not as a slave.  Remember how Christ refers to his friends?  "I no longer call you slaves....slaves do not know what their Lord does; I call you friends because all things that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you."  Freedom allows us to think and move and be.  It allows us to be us in the fullest sense. Resolutions bring us closer to this personal freedom.

It takes a lot of courage to be honest.  It also takes a lot of courage to want to change, but this leads to my next point.  Once we get honest about things, we realize that it behooves us to change. And this, my friends, is where the devil really loses power and gets irritated.  In myself, I recognize that personal change is possible in and of myself only to a certain degree.  I am usually thwarted by something or someone that I am powerless over.  For this I need Extra Help.  Prayer is my best tool.  More on this later on under "Tools..."

Coming up with Resolutions

So be courageous and come up with that list of resolutions...maybe it's one or two things that your doctor keeps telling you to give up (cholesterol, coffee, cigarettes, anger, food, excessive drinking). These tip-o-the-iceberg bad habits usually give weigh to more deeply rooted ills and evils which probably have their origin in the seven deadly sins.  Do you think this might be why most people give up on their resolutions before the end of January?  They are attacking symptoms rather than the real root problems. I wonder what it would be like to use an Examination of Conscience as a tool to structure a Resolutions list.  Or how about the 10 Commandments?  This might help to tease out those unruly 7 deadlies, and hasten true change.  Add to this a monthly retreat to renew your commitment to following God's laws more faithfully.  

Another approach has trinitarian roots.  Devise a triparteid column list with headers such as: Health, Happiness and Character (Thank you Dennis Prager) or Mental, Physical, Spiritual.  

And then there is the giant unstructured list.  This is fine too.  Just be sure to post whatever it is your doing in a common location like a journal and don't wait until Lent to figure out that you've not spent any time reviewing it.  

Tools for Maintaining your Resolve 
(That's Re-Solve for those of you hanging in there with me on the real meanings of things). 

Prayer:  The action of recollection; our conversation with God who is the lover of our hearts.  Directing one's thoughts, actions and will towards God.  Every good action begins and ends in prayer. 
Courage: Courage is not the absence of fear, but acting in spite of it (Mark Twain).  The courage to want to change is a great spiritual virtue. The idea that we want to change is a signal that we desire to be better people.
Calendar:  track progress and ensure motivation & follow through.
Accountability - Let somebody in on your plan.  A friend or accountability group is a great support system to let others into your life and give you needed encouragement.  Who knows, you just might be an inspiration to others! My accountability group will be  sharing our "bucket list" items starting this January.  This includes my friend mentioned in the first paragraph who has happily renovated the "resolution" word for us. Kudos to you CAMH :-)   Oh, boy...there is a significant temptation to publish bucket list here on the Spikenard blog but let's just say that for now I will keep you posted on the progress :-)

Happy New Year! 


  1. What an amazing piece Karen! God bless!

  2. I recommend praying through the first letter of John several times, meditating on those points that stand out for us, personally. It is a good summary of what we need to do to make re-solutions that will prepare us for our next year on this earth.

  3. I enjoyed your commentary on coming to terms with "words". Going underneath the layer of what is "bothering" us is true spiritual work... when we include God in our attempt. It is the moment of facing this dis-comfort and allowing... I repeat... ALLOWING His grace to impede on our souls. God bless to you my friend and for the coming year of 2012!
    love you...

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