A New Year Every Day

By Rick Wattman
January 1993

"HAPPY NEW YEAR! What are your New Year's resolutions for 1993?"

It is a safe greeting this time of year—no religious or political strings attached, and no hidden agendas. What's more, nobody ever expects you to take the question seriously: no accountability is required later in the year to prove you have kept your resolve.

What's the fuss? I find myself rather detached from the celebration of the arrival of 1993 (or the new millenium, or any new year). I'm not sure why this year should be any different from others: I've never paid much attention to the resolution ritual. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with the practice.

Nonetheless I was compelled to consider the custom after hearing a report that fully 75 per cent of all New Year's resolutions are broken by January 7. A widespread sign of very little resolve, wouldn't you say?

First of all, what's so special about January 1 that motivates us to self-improvement? Our year is approximately 365-¼ days long, as Earth travels its elliptical path around the sun. If you think about it, each day is the beginning of a new year. We've simply designated January 1 for observation. But that day is not even one of the significant points on our planet's orbit, like either equinox (two dates during the year when day and night are of equal length) or solstice (two dates with the greatest difference in the length of day and night), or the perihelion (the point of earth's orbit closest to the sun) or the aphelion (when Earth is farthest from the sun).

Why do we make resolutions on January 1? Why not on our birthday each year? Why wait a whole year? Why not make any desired changes in our behaviors as we go, every day, whenever it is necessary, rather than let them accumulate to unmanageable levels?

Even the world's wisdom reflects this in a proverb: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Of course it is. Each day is, just as each day is the beginning of another 365-day period.

It is this thought that brings me to Jesus' advice to take one day at a time. If I confess my sins as I go, and don't let the sun go down on my anger, I'm sure I'll have enough self-improvement to keep myself busy each day. And when the Holy Spirit convicts me of an area of my life I need to be more obedient in, shouldn't I deal with it then instead of waiting until the New Year?

The bottom line to the issue—not to be too serious about a fun cultural practice, but I guess since I started this I ought to finish it—is that for each of us, today may also be the last day of our life. Whatever we put off until tomorrow we may never have the opportunity to accomplish. Again, even our civilization counsels us to "Live each day as if it were your last."

God also told the rich man in the parable, "Fool, do you not know that tonight your soul is required of you?" (Luke 12:20). James, too, warned his fellow believers, "You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. . . . Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that'" (James 4:15).

So it is obvious we shouldn't wait until January to muster the resolve to make necessary—or even unnecessary yet desired—changes. To be effective, at least according to statistics, we need to act today rather than waiting.

So there it is, my "cold water" thrown all over New Year's resolutions. There's nothing wrong with them, but it seems to this writer that they are less than helpful. So there.

Bah-humbug (tee-hee).

©1993 Rick Wattman