Happy New Year and welcome to 2016! We trust this will be a wonderful year for you, full of success, health and happiness.
With the onset of a new year come new resolutions. Many people start the year off with determination and commit themselves to new ways to improve their health, spend more time with family, become debt-free, improve mental well-being, improve on their careers, increase their education, take a trip, volunteer etc., but how many of us actually stick to it throughout the year? Commitment can be a bitter pill to swallow however sincere our intentions are. We start off being diligent, and regardless of circumstances we excel at it. Then come the storms of life and various temptations, be it bad weather, parties, invitations to various events and little by little we start to slip.
According to Wikipedia, at the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults formed New Year’s resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, an estimated 40% did. In fact, according to the American Medical Association (AMA), approximately 40% to 50% of Americans participate in the New Year’s resolution tradition. It should also be noted that 46% of those who endeavor to make common resolutions (e.g. weight loss, exercise programs, quitting smoking) were over 10-times more likely to have a rate of success as compared to only 4% who chose not to make resolutions. The most common reason for participants failing their New Years’ Resolutions was setting themselves unrealistic goals (35%), while 33% didn’t keep track of their progress and a further 23% forgot about it. About one in 10 respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.
January gets its name from Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. Janus was also the patron and protector of arches (Ianus in Latin), gates, doors, doorways, endings and beginnings. The custom of setting “New Year’s resolutions” began in Rome two millennia ago, as they made such resolutions with a moral flavor: mostly to be good to others. But when the Roman Empire took Christianity as its official state religion in the 4th century, these moral intentions were replaced by prayers and fasting. For example, Christians chose to observe the Feast of the Circumcision on January 1 in place of the revelry otherwise indulged in by those who did not share the faith. This replacement had varying degrees of success over the centuries, and Christians hesitated observing some of the New Year practices associated with honoring the pagan god Janus. Even as recently as the 17th century, Puritans in Colonial America avoided the indulgences associated with New Year’s celebrations and other holidays. In the 18th century, Puritans avoiding even naming Janus. Instead they called January “First Month.”
In contrast to this, the Puritans urged their children to skip the revelry and instead spend their time reflecting on the year past and contemplating the year to come. In this way they adopted again the old custom of making resolutions. These were enumerated as commitments to better employ their talents, treat their neighbors with charity, and avoid their habitual sins.
The great American theologian Jonathan Edwards, brought up in New England Puritan culture, took the writing of resolutions to an art form. But he did not write his resolutions on a single day. Rather, during a two-year period when he was about 19 or 20 following his graduation from Yale, he compiled some 70 resolutions on various aspects of his life, which he committed to reviewing each week. Here are just three:
- Resolved, in narrations never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.
- Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.
- Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining and establishing peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects.
Whether you made any resolutions for the New Year or not, we wish you well and hope that you’ll make a resolution to follow our blog 🙂