New Year

A Resolution on Resolutions

This year my New Year’s Resolution is to celebrate New Year’s at a time more conducive to change and renewal—oh say, spring instead of the dark, dead of winter when I’m just coming off the sugar high of the holidays. Somehow I think we Gregorian calendar devotees have got this one all wrong.

Historically, New Year’s Day hasn’t always fallen on January first because our calendar hasn’t been a consistent entity. Factor in a few mythological gods, Roman emperors, and a pope or two. Add a dash of Protestant Reformation and you’ll find that in the past, the New Year occurred anywhere from January 1 to March 25. (Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1752 that England and the American colonies began celebrating New Year’s on January 1st.) That’s nothing to say of the multiple cultures that celebrate it in recognition of their own calendars.  And if you really want your head to spin, don’t forget all our dear southern hemisphere friends who experience the seasons opposite to us and whose Christmas and New Year’s celebrations include BBQs on the beach.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in my experience, making resolutions on January 1 is a bad idea.

Because there’s nothing particularly organic about celebrating the New Year this way. For most of us, it’s simply a function of the calendar and happens primarily because we’ve reached the end of the month and need to turn the page (or in my case, glue magnets on the back of my 2012 office-sized calendar from Target and stick it to the side of the refrigerator.) Think about it—there is no seasonal change or religious celebration that would motivate us to make resolutions; it’s simply a cultural obligation. Or, in my experience, the result of the guilt from eating too much, exercising too little and overspending in the last six weeks since Thanksgiving.

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The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

With appreciation to A Puritan’s Mind and the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Jonathan Edwards was born in the American Colonies in 1703 and raised in the Puritan and Congregationalist tradition. He entered Yale College just shy of 13 years of age and graduated at the head of his class in 1720. He wrote the resolutions below from 1722 to 1723, at age 19. At the time, he was studying theology at New Haven and serving as pulpit supply at a small Presbyterian church.

Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

2. Resolved, To be continually endeavouring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the forementioned things.

3. Resolved, If ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.

5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

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