Jump to content

The Protestant Community

Christian and Theologically Protestant? Or, sincerely inquiring about the Protestant faith? Welcome to Christforums the Christian Protestant community. You'll first need to register in order to join our community. Create or respond to threads on your favorite topics and subjects. Registration takes less than a minute, it's simple, fast, and free! Enjoy the fellowship! God bless, Christforums' Staff
Register now

Fenced Community

Christforums is a Protestant Christian forum, open to Bible-believing Christians such as Presbyterians, Lutherans, Reformed, Baptists, Church of Christ members, Pentecostals, Anglicans. Methodists, Charismatics, or any other conservative, Nicene- derived Christian Church. We do not solicit cultists of any kind, including Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Eastern Lightning, Falun Gong, Unification Church, Aum Shinrikyo, Christian Scientists or any other non-Nicene, non-Biblical heresy.
Register now

Christian Fellowship

John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
Sign in to follow this  
News Feeder

4 Mistakes That Will Sabotage Your New Year’s Resolutions

Recommended Posts

resolutions-sabotage-tgc-300x128.jpg

I love New Year’s resolutions.

Well, I love making New Year’s resolutions. In the waning days of December, I whip out my Moleskine notebook eager to dream up commitments for the year ahead.

Exercise five times a week.

Stick to the budget.

Read my Bible every day.

When I finish recording these goals, I’m almost jealous of my future self. He’s going to be so spiritual. And skinny!

Then January happens, and I find that making resolutions is much easier than keeping them. What started in a burst of excitement ends in quiet disappointment, a sad liturgy of willpower failures that repeats every year.

At least I’m not alone.

By February 80 percent of us have stopped jogging, started sleeping in, or jumped headfirst back into whatever bad habits we promised to break.

Why? That’s what I’ve been on a mission to find out. For the past year, I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about self-control and have interviewed a variety of experts on the topic. I’ve looked at both the science and spirituality behind why we fail to live up to our lofty expectations. Why do we find it so difficult to keep our resolutions?

Part of the reason, I’m convinced, involves some strategic blunders.

1. Overestimate Your Willpower

About 20 years ago, researchers discovered something fascinating about willpower. In a landmark study, participants were given a geometry puzzle to work on. The puzzle was impossible to solve, but the researchers wanted to test how long the participants would struggle with the task before giving up.

Before taking the test, participants waited in a room with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. One group was free to eat them; the other was forbidden from snacking. When it came time to work on the puzzle, the cookie-eaters toiled for 20 minutes on the puzzle. The cookie-resisters, meanwhile, lasted only eight minutes before calling it quits.

Why the dramatic difference?

The researchers concluded that resisting the cookies had drained their willpower. When it came time to solve a complicated puzzle, their reserves were already low. The study—and hundreds of others since—showed that willpower is a finite resource, one that depletes quickly.

When I’m making resolutions, I feel like a superhero. Temptations will bounce off me like bullets off Superman’s chest. My resolve won’t waver.

Of course such findings merely illustrate what the Bible teaches us about our nature—that we’re fallen, finite creatures. I think of Jesus’s words to his disciples when he caught them napping on the eve of his crucifixion: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).

Somehow I forget this reality. When I’m making resolutions, I feel like a superhero. Temptations will bounce off me like bullets off Superman’s chest. My resolve won’t waver. Yet that delusional thinking actually sets me up for failure. It leads me to set large goals and lots of them. Then when the year starts, I quickly exhaust my paltry willpower reserves. In a cruel twist of irony, attempting to change multiple behaviors at once guarantees I won’t change any.

Part of the problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they’re resolutions, plural. The wiser approach: identify one modest change and focus on that until it becomes a habit.

Your willpower is limited. Plan accordingly.

2. Go It Alone

Recently, I struck up a conversation with an older man at the airport as we awaited our flight. I learned he was a recovering alcoholic who’d been clean for years. When I praised his self-control, he demurred.

“Self-control is important,” he said. “But if you just rely on self-control, you’re dead. You need a community around you. I know alcoholics who haven’t had a drop for 40 years and still go to the AA meetings.”

We need each other. When it comes to resolutions, lone rangers are dead rangers.

“You need a community around you.” I think that’s true, and not just for alcoholics. Whether your goal is to stay sober or start a new spiritual discipline, you weren’t designed to go it alone. You need support and encouragement. The idea of a solitary saint may be appealing, but it isn’t scriptural. Instead, the Bible speaks of people refining each other “as iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17) and “spurring each other on to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).

Most resolutions (at least the worthwhile ones) demand breaking the inertia of bad habits and forging new routines. That doesn’t happen without help. So share your goals with friends who will keep you accountable. We need each other. When it comes to resolutions, lone rangers are dead rangers.

3. Leave God Out

When I’ve set New Year’s resolutions in the past, God hasn’t always entered the equation. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true. I don’t remember praying about my goals (even the spiritual ones!), or asking for divine empowerment. I failed to reflect on how the resolutions related to my identity as a Christian. I just sort of made them—then tried to bootstrap my way to success.

That’s a massive mistake. Keeping resolutions takes a lot of self-control. While we may think self-control is all on us (it’s self-control, after all), the Bible describes it as a fruit of the Spirit, something that grows in our lives when we’re connected to God (Gal. 5:23). When we neglect our relationship with God, and fail to align our goals with his purposes, this vital fruit withers.

In the end it’s grace—not guilt—that enables us to lead holy, healthy lives.

Even social scientists know that getting spiritual about our goals is smart. Researchers tell us that “sanctified goals” (objectives that people believe have spiritual significance) have tremendous power. According to Michael McCullough, a psychologist who specializes in the study of religion and self-control:

The belief that God has preferences for how you behave and the goals you set for yourself has to be the granddaddy of all psychological devices for encouraging people to follow through with their goals.

The phenomenon doesn’t only apply to spiritual pursuits. As Baylor psychologist Sarah Schnitker explained to me,

Sanctification of even mundane goals changes the way people engage in goal pursuit. Take a goal, say being a good parent. It’s not necessarily a spiritual goal, but if you imbue that goal with sacred meaning, and say that God cares about this calling, you pursue goals related to that role with more effort.

If you see your resolutions in the light of spiritual reality, you’re far more likely to keep them.

4. Wallow in Guilt

If you’re like me, you’ve been there. It’s February, and your once-shiny resolutions have become, yet again, a source of lingering shame. The tendency can be to wallow in guilt and self-loathing, especially if your broken resolutions involved refraining from certain sins. You might think this guilt would lead to better behavior, but of course, it does just the opposite. I’ve already messed up, you reason, so what’s the point of even trying now?

Researchers actually coined a term for this tendency. They call it the “What-the-Hell Effect.” Basically, it means that after messing up, we tend to mess up even more. Our guilt leads to hopelessness, spurring even worse behavior.

Thankfully as Christians, we know just how to stop this vicious circle: forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is able and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). No matter how profound our failures, God gives a fresh start. That’s good news because in the end it’s grace—not guilt—that enables us to lead holy, healthy lives. That’s true on January 1—and every other day of the year.

6db2z7I_P-Q

View the full article

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Similar Topics

    • Progressive Enjoying TV Show She'll Denounce As 'Extremely Problematic' Within Five Years

      TIGARD, OR—According to sources close to local progressive Xen Carson, the woman is really enjoying a recent TV show she discovered, a program she'll inevitably label as "hopelessly problematic" within five years' time. The post Progressive Enjoying TV Show She'll Denounce As 'Extremely Problematic' Within Five Years appeared first on The Babylon Bee. View the original full article

      in Christian Satire

    • Make Habits, Not Resolutions

      Change is the deepest dream of the human heart. We’d all like to become someone new. It’s also the great promise of the gospel—that Jesus makes all things new. As 2018 fades into 2019, the whole world is getting caught up in the dream of change. In a way, this is wonderful. There is common grace in a calendar that regularly presents us with opportunities to reconsider how we live. The flurry of resolutions made this time of year reminds us that we really do long to be made new. But there’s also a dark side. We waste the redemptive desire to be made new on resolutions that have no power to change us. This week, many of us will make ambitious, sweeping resolutions; and in less than a month our collective amnesia will set in. Our hopes will be quietly discarded, and our remarkable capacity to forget will be the only thing that saves us from the embarrassment of it all. So here’s a challenge for next year: Don’t make resolutions—make habits. Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us. Power of Habits Habits form who we are, because habits are little liturgies of worship. Think about it. A habit is something you do over and over without noticing it. We wake up and we scroll Instagram. We roll up to the stoplight and check our texts. We get a controversial work email and check the news headlines instead of facing the task. We might be vaguely annoyed at these things, but we probably don’t think of them as deeply formative. We are terribly mistaken. At the root of each of these little liturgies is a search for something fundamental—our eyes search the photos for a vision of the good life; at the stoplight we itch for a connection with another human; in difficult work moments we realize we’d rather numb ourselves with distraction than face the pain of life itself. Humans were made to worship, so we can’t stop worshiping. Ever. And under each of these tiny, ordinary, and tremendously powerful moments lies a habit of worship. In a world where new technological habits are emerging in every aspect of our lives, to do nothing is actually to do something quite extraordinary. It is to submit to a strange and deformed modern order of worship. This presents us with a problem: If we want to be formed in the love of God and neighbor, we must take hold of our habits. Modern Problem, Ancient Solution For millennia, communities of Christians have committed to communal patterns of habit as a way to resist formation in cultural habits and embrace formation in the love of God and neighbor. This practice has various names and forms, but in the monastic context these communal programs of habit were sometimes called a “rule of life.” Some think these practices are legalistic. This is understandable, because if we were to try to pursue habits to earn God’s love, they would be. But when we’re so enamored with the love of God that we decide to order every bit of our lives accordingly—that’s simply responding to the beauty of our Savior. Habits before love is legalism. But love before habits is the logic of grace. The fascinating thing about our modern moment is that we’re already semi-consciously adopting a new rule of life. But this new rule of life isn’t designed by those who care about our formation in the image of Christ—it’s formed by companies that want to attract our attention and sell it to advertisers. To do nothing is to adopt a competing rule of life that’s trying to get you to believe you’re loved because of what you buy, post, read, accomplish, or think. To do nothing is to submit to a rule of life that tries to talk you out of beauty of the gospel. We urgently need to wake up. There’s a better way, and it lies in crafting a rule of life that uses ordinary habits to form us in the gospel. We don’t need new resolutions—we need a better rule of life. We need counter-formational habits that will invade our moments of waking, our rhythms of work, and our patterns of community. We need tiny habits that point us to the gospel of Jesus in moments both big and small. This is why I invite communities to try the Common Rule. Adopt a Common Rule of Life The Common Rule is a communal pattern of four daily and four weekly habits designed to counter the chaos of our modern technological life. It’s meant to be done with other people, and it’s designed to push ordinary life toward love of God and neighbor. You can read more about the habits on the website. There are daily habits like Scripture before phone and turning your phone off for an hour a day of presence. There are also weekly habits like sabbath and pursuing intentional conversation with friends. These habits are designed to disrupt the patterns of cultural formation that currently frame our lives and introduce habits that push us toward community, toward presence, and toward believing the gospel more deeply. So here’s the challenge: Don’t make any resolutions this year. Instead, find a couple friends in your church or small group, download the guide on the website, and spend the first 31 days of January trying out some of the habits of the Common Rule. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

    • 5 Things Failed New Year’s Resolutions Teach Us

      I used to have a tradition for New Year’s resolutions. I would find some quiet time before New Year’s day—maybe when the kids were napping—and sit on the porch with my Bible and a journal. I would, in sequence, read Scripture, pray, and journal. At the end, I would write some resolutions for the year to come. I recently flipped through some of my old journals and the resolutions were pretty much the same each year, only with different wording or different color ink. Some were casual, like deadlifting X number of pounds. Others were more serious, like learning to serve my wife with joy instead of duty. After writing my resolutions, I’d look at them in the coming days—never often. Most of the time, I forgot they existed. By June, they had evaporated from my mind. I’ve failed at keeping most of my resolutions, and most of us have failed at keeping resolutions, whether they’ve been to pray more or lose 10 pounds. The University of Scranton did a study that showed only 8 percent of people keep their resolutions. Thus, it’s wise to learn from these failures and reframe the way we think about meaningful life changes. Here are five things our failed resolutions tell us. 1. We’re unable to change ourselves. Our wills are not strong. We can read all the self-help books we want, but growth in character and holiness are not DIY projects. In fact, self-help can be detrimental if we aren’t careful. Life change comes from heart change, and heart change comes from God. 2. We don’t even know what we want. So often in my resolutions I’d want something that became worthless to me months later. Our interests change, and as we grow in wisdom our desires elevate and mature. Even with wisdom we still see dimly, and if our goals alone charted the course of our lives, we’d end up lost. We need the Lord to guide our lives and desires. 3. We have an unhealthy and unrealistic interest in our earthly future. In C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, the senior demon Screwtape tells Wormwood, his understudy: We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present. Here’s what Lewis was driving at: we are obsessed with the future and unsatisfied with the present. Really, we are obsessed with our earthly future. But our earthly future is merely an idea. The past has passed. And while we should plan for our future on earth, it’s not guaranteed. Far better to seek contentment in the present and hope in our eternal future. These are guaranteed. 4. We’re not content in every circumstance. Our failed resolutions teach us that we’re not happy with how God cares for us. We want more: more muscle, more money, more notoriety, more everything. True contentment in the grace and hope of Christ is not circumstantial; it flourishes in the dungeon as well as the mansion. We fail to comprehend our fortune because of what Jesus has accomplished for us, and we fail to appreciate the outrageous grace of merely being alive. 5. We need Jesus. Our resolutions are often shallow, but even the deep ones and our failure to keep them shows a dire need for heart change. We’re not what we should be, and we want to be different. The transformation we seek is valid, but the means by which we seek it are often insufficient. We need Jesus to transform us into his likeness, and resolve alone isn’t enough. Not Bad, but Often Ineffective Resolutions aren’t entirely bad. It is by no means sinful to make New Year’s resolutions. Jonathan Edwards famously made them. So did T. S. Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and J. R. R. Tolkien. Resolutions aren’t wrong, but they’re not usually very effective. My kids once made a treasure map of our back yard. They drew crossing dotted lines and an X, which marked the spot of reward. It was cute, but the map was useless. There was no treasure and their map was inaccurate. Too often, this is us. We tend to chart a childish course for our lives and pursue treasures which don’t exist. The apostle James potently evaluates our attempts to manipulate the future: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13–15) How to Make Resolutions Okay, so it’s clear that resolutions are often short-sighted and ineffective. But what about those of us who like to make them? Here are some recommendations: Make sure your resolutions align with God’s Word and with God’s aim to glorify himself by magnifying your joy in him. Set realistic resolutions which are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Seek counsel, and accountability, from brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray over your resolutions and submit them to the Lord for his guidance. Whether or not you set resolutions for 2019, don’t place your hope in your ability to change yourself. If we could change ourselves, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come. Only he can transform us. Resolve this year to praise him for what he has done, and seek to become more like him by this time next year. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

    • Baby Jesus Statue Returned, 90 Years after it Was Stolen

      A small statue of baby Jesus that was stolen from a New Jersey church was returned this year – nearly 90 years after it went missing. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.