January is the time of year when we think about new beginnings — a month of fresh starts that allow us to improve ourselves and strive for new objectives. It is a time of both reflection and anticipation as we consider not only where we’ve been but where we would like to go. January is also, therefore, a time to develop New Year’s resolutions that map out a course that reflects our goals.
Unfortunately, we all know what usually happens to New Year’s resolutions. The average New Year’s resolution lasts for about seven days. We can easily observe the aftermath of failed resolutions: the gym that was full the first week of January will return back to normal after a week or two, the goal of reading a book per week will surrender to another night of watching television, and diets give way to cookies and soda. The problem isn’t that we don’t want to change, the problem is that change is difficult to accomplish. New Year’s resolutions are wish lists, actual change is the product of determination.
Change is not possible until we decide to rid ourselves of the past and chart a new course. This is where most resolutions fail: we say we want something new while simultaneously clinging to the thing we want to eliminate. We would stay on our diets if cookies weren’t already in the house and we would finish a book if the television weren’t in the middle of the living room. The future depends on how we fearlessly handle old habits.
Forgiveness also works this way. Forgiveness is similar to a New Year’s resolution — it is our decision to change and not to let past wrongs influence us today. Forgiveness provides healing and allows us to move forward; forgiveness gives us the freedom to decide our own future rather than allowing the past to determine it for us. Despite the benefits forgiveness offers us, many people fail to forgive because they find it difficult to let go of the past. Sometimes we can’t forgive others because the pain is too great; sometimes we don’t forgive because we don’t want someone else to “get away with it.”
Much like a New Year’s resolution, forgiveness can remain a wish list. We can find motivation to turn forgiveness into reality by realizing that the person who most benefits from forgiveness is ourselves. There is a wonderful world of freedom waiting for us that begins the moment we free ourselves from the past — and we can pray to God for the strength to forgive knowing it will be granted.
Rather than making a New Year’s resolution that will be cast aside in a week, make one resolution this year: become a forgiveness expert. If each of us can do this, we’ll be happier people when January 2023 rolls around.