You’ve set your New Year’s resolutions
Maybe they’re written nicely in a new notebook. Maybe they’re a list on your phone. Last year wasn’t so great, you say, but this year is going to be your best one yet.
You’re going to pray more, eat better, and study harder. This year will be different. You’ve spent the last couple of days reflecting on the past year and how you can make a difference in the next 365 days. It’s going to work. You’re going to persevere.
Except there’s a problem.
You won’t persevere.
Not fully, anyway. Despite the best intentions and the best plans, you’re going to fail your resolutions in some way, perhaps even within the first week of January. As in previous years, you’ll find that your momentum will slacken because of your fading resolve. By spring your resolutions may have turned into compromises.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Enter the “Little Way”
St. Therese of Lisieux wrote about this revolutionary way of living in The Story of a Soul. Following Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:3, she said that by accepting one’s weaknesses and placing complete trust in God, one could become like a little child. “It is enough to recognize one’s nothingness and to abandon one’s self like a child in the arms of God,” she said. The story of her life is witness to the truth of these words.
By embracing her “littleness,” Therese learned not to be disappointed in her failings. She knew that because of this “littleness,” she couldn’t achieve even the smallest things without divine aid. She abandoned herself to Jesus, and offered everything that happened to her—from the greatest joy to the smallest annoyance—as a gift to Him. “Merit is not to be found in doing much or in giving much,” she said, “but rather in receiving and in loving much.”
What does this mean for your resolutions?
- Take a step back. You need to approach your resolutions after reflecting on your weaknesses. If you recognize your own “littleness,” like Therese, you’ll be able to see where you might be demanding too much of yourself. For example, if you’ve resolved to pray for an hour every day, but are only doing it some days, maybe start with a 30- or 15-minute prayer session each day, and work your way up.
- Ask for help. Therese knew that because of her littleness, she was incapable of doing even the smallest things without Divine (or human) help. Before making your resolutions over again, say a prayer and ask for the grace to see where you need help. Maybe your resolutions are do-able, but you need help from friends and family to achieve them.
- Keep moving after you fail. Therese was so aware of herself that she was never surprised when she failed. She would offer up even her failings to Jesus, because she knew getting upset would only mean losing her way. For example, if you realize that you have a tendency to be slow getting out of bed, you won’t be upset if you flunk your resolution to be up at 7am every morning. Instead, you’d be patient with yourself, offer it up, and keep moving.
So, don’t be discouraged. With time, prayer, and St. Therese’s Little Way, you can make this year’s resolutions work.
Happy Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and Happy New Year, everyone!
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