Today is January 2 and most New Year’s resolutions are in full swing with high optimism and zeal. Glancing at the news headlines, they were full of health related topics, typically all geared toward New Year’s resolutions regarding personal health. One suggested a diet surrounding eating low-carb, high fat foods (bring on the bacon!), while others suggest cutting alcohol, and others offered tips and incentives for gym memberships in the new year. Now while these are all well and good, particularly if we have overindulged over the last month with Thanksgiving and Christmas, I do have an issue with these health crazes surrounding New Year’s resolutions.
A problem that I see with these trends is that most often they are guilt-inspired. We eat too much fudge and cookies (and eggnog) over Christmas and we feel like we need to repent and make up for our self-indulgence. Now it’s a very good idea to get healthy since we are called to be good stewards of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and that means taking care of ourselves physically, but many people try to do this at the beginning of the year and will quit very shortly afterward and fail to become the healthy person he or she was inspired to become. This becomes a fairly vicious cycle each year and we will see it again this year, I promise. The better option, in my opinion, is to disregard New Year’s resolutions all together and just strive to live healthy no matter what time of year it is. If you begin on January 1, that’s fine, and if you fail, pick it up again when you recognize it (and don’t just wait until the new year again to try again).
I think the subliminal message we believe which leads to our failure is that getting healthy (or undoing the Christmas indulgence) can be achieved quickly. The truth is getting healthy is not an overnight fix. It is a slow and long process, one that must be lived out in patience with constant choosing of the healthy option over the unhealthy. This process will not be full of success each and every moment, but will be constant challenge to recognize failures, learn from them, and step up the game to continue striving for health.
This process has profound parallels to living an authentically Christian life. This is the same truth behind every Christian’s growth in virtue. One does not become virtuous overnight, but by practicing and training in virtue for long periods of time. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that, “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what is was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other (bk. III, ch. 4, p. 87). Our lives are filled with constant opportunities to choose virtue or vice. Becoming the saints God wants us to be isn’t an overnight fix, but is a life-long process with a firm disposition to choose virtue with the grace of God. It isn’t easy, but it is the most fulfilling thing we can do. Just look to the saints who have gone before us to see how fulfilling this can be.
So in this new year of 2018, don’t make a new year’s resolution to become healthy, just make a deliberate choice to do it regardless of the fact it is a new year. And in our lives as Christians make a commitment to living the life God calls you to live at every moment of the year to become the saints God calls us to be. Happy New Year!