Happy New Year! 2017. I don’t know when the tradition of making new year resolutions began, but they have always been a part of my new year celebrations. Sara and I have a tradition of writing down resolutions and sealing them in an envelope that we reopen at the end of the year. It’s always surprising to see how we’ve done. To be honest I often don’t remember on December 31 what I wrote down way back in January. But somehow I’ve managed to accomplish at least some of the things I resolved to be or do. Maybe the act of writing them own imprints them on my brain or something.
2016 was a difficult year for many, at least that’s what I hear people say. I tend to think that a year will have lots of ups and downs. It’s the rhythm of life I mentioned earlier. I think we usually hope for a better year than the one before no matter what we’ve experienced. Hope is a big word in this context. What I mean by hope is that we live into the vision God has given us through the prophets, through Jesus, through those of differing faiths.
That vision is consistent. It’s called the Golden Rule.
Every religion I know of has this rule for living at its core. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Some say it this way: Don’t treat others the way you don’t want to be treated. And so I’ve resolved to be more intentional about living the Golden Rule this year. The means by which I will take on this challenge is to take what author Karen Armstrong calls 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life. The steps build upon one another and they begin with recognizing our past. You’ve heard the saying, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it?” The second step is to look at one’s own world. Who we are is shaped by where we live, the people we know, the family we are from and so on. The world we live in shapes the way we interpret everything about life. The bigger that world the broader our ability to interpret.
Third, have compassion for one’s self. Compassion is a compound word that means to suffer with. It means to have the ability to have empathy, which is the fourth step. Fifth, is to practice mindfulness. It was surprising to me how much we do without being intentional. Think of this as becoming proactive rather than reactive to things.
Sixth, take action. Practice. We do best what we practice most. Seventh, stay humble. Humility is the ability to acknowledge that we don’t know as much as we often think we know. Especially about others. Eight, ask, “How should we speak to one another?” When you are in an argument do you listen to what the other person is saying or mostly think of how you can make your response and win the argument? Listening for understanding is a key to how we ought to speak with one another.
Nine, have a concern for everybody. Everybody.
Ten, seek knowledge. I want to learn something new every day. When I do that, it’s a good day. Eleven, recognize and affirm there is no “us” and “them.” There really isn't you know. And twelve, love one’s enemy. This may sound difficult, but I know that if we follow these steps we will reach a point where we are be able to love even our enemy. And admit that many times our own worst enemy is us.
That’s it. Here’s to a year of compassionate living. May it be so.