New Year’s Resolve

In common usage today, the word resolution has more to do with compromise than with the backbone and spine required to make permanent change in our daily lives. We use it to say something like, “We’ve come to a resolution of our differences,” meaning we’ve each given away something of ourselves in order to agree.

Resolve is not a word most of us use often, probably because we have become accustomed to choosing words that allow us an out. To avoid stepping on others’ opinions, we’ve been told to use phrases like “I feel ,” because people can’t disagree with what we’re feeling, though they could disagree with our opinions. That is probably effective when what is meant is something like “I feel hurt when you…” What has happened in our language is that the phrase “I feel” is often not  connected to an emotion but has become more frequently connected to a thought or a belief in order to hopefully stop people from disagreeing with us over those thoughts and beliefs. You can know you have moved away from the true language of feeling when you have to say “I feel that…;” that phrase with the added word ‘that’ will always lead not to a feeling/emotion but to a thought or belief.

That language has so permeated our speech patterns that no one seems willing any longer to take responsibility for his or her thoughts by stating, “I think,” “I believe, or “I know.” I believe it is that unwillingness to take responsibility for our actions, thoughts and beliefs that causes us to make resolutions (hear and feel ‘compromises’) rather than actually resolving (hear choices, backbone and will) to take the necessary steps to accomplish change.

Because of the difference in those words, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I know those will be forgotten and set aside within a few days of the new year. If something is truly important enough to make me deeply desire change, I must resolve to implement the changes that will be necessary.

This morning I was reading yesterday’s “My Utmost for His Highest” and the opening scripture and Chambers’ comments read like a New Year’s resolve: “My eager desire and hope being that I may never feel ashamed, but that now as ever I may do honour to Christ in my own person by fearless courage.” Philippians 1:20 (MOFFATT)

Chambers quotes Paul, “My determination is to be my utmost for His Highest” [emphasis mine]. He goes on to say, “To get there is a question of will, not of debate nor of reasoning, but a surrender of will, an absolute and irrevocable surrender on that point.”

If I am going to “be my utmost for His Highest,” I need to be aiming with resolve and determination toward all those ideals most of us merely apply the label “New Year’s Resolutions” to. I know resolutions will not be implemented and will be lost to my mind after a few days not to be recalled until I reflect on how I did in 2009. But my daily resolve and determination can guide me to “be my utmost for His Highest.”

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3 Responses

  1. I understand the basis for your ideas in this post. However, I don’t always think that the root word of resolution is resolve but resolute. I looked up the word and here is some of the etymology:
    resolution Look up resolution at Dictionary.com — 1412, “a breaking into parts,” from L. resolutionem (nom. resolutio) “process of reducing things into simpler forms,” from pp. stem of resolvere “loosen” (see resolve). Originally sense of “solving” (as of mathematical problems) first recorded 1548, that of “holding firmly” (in resolute) 1533, and that of “decision or expression of a meeting” is from 1604.

    I don’t make any ‘resolutions’ at new years because it would be trite for me. The only way I can accomplish something is to be determined from within and creating a list on cue of things to do does not work for me.

    • Merriam Webster (online) does show resolution and resolve to be connected words. It looks to me as though the first definitions of resolve are more scientific in nature – I am not scientific but rather linguistic. I would say the only time I use the word resolve is when I mean backbone and will. Attorneys currently seem to use the word resolution in terms of getting two parties to come to some compromised agreement. There is a whole field of divorce settlement that involves resolutions.

      I believe the more common usage of the word resolve has more to do with dealing with things successfully, such as resolve the problem. Even in music, one of the most primary elements is about resolving the tension created when two notes played simultaneously cause dissonance. It is so comforting once that tension is resolved. The reason we would make resolutions or resolve to do something is because of the tension inside.

      Although the dictionary meaning of resolute is about determination, most of the times when I’ve read a phrase about someone being resolute it has been more negative in direction than positive. Consequently, I have a personal aversion to the word resolute. I would guess that I see being resolute as turning your back on everything you really want instead of running with all your might toward it. I also see resolute people as becoming bitter and angry over what they’ve lost. I don’t believe your weight loss and maintenance of it (or Mickey’s) was about being resolute – standing firm against chocolate, for example – but rather about being resolved/committed to making healthier choices. I also don’t think being resolute allows for enjoying chocolate upside cake for your birthday and then returning to the healthy choice.

      These are my emotional responses to words based on how I’ve read them or seen them enacted in movies or in observing people. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the only way to accomplish something is to be determined from within, which is why I prefer the word resolved in terms of making personal changes.

  2. [...] Builder’s Creed” I found it fascinating that only yesterday I read in my mother’s blog about New Year’s resolutions and how people don’t follow through or make [...]

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