Worn out resolutions invite a shift in focus

  • Published
  • By Col. Joe Scherrer
  • 75th Support Group commander
Like I'm sure many of you have done, I sat down this past week to draw up my list of New Year's resolutions. After all, "He who fails to plan, plans to fail." Almost automatically, I wrote down my standard categories for improvement: spiritual, family, personal relationships, work/professional, finances, intellectual, health/fitness/recreation. And like old friends, long established goals came back to reacquaint me with their company: "Lose ten pounds," "Read one book per month," "Score 100 on your PT test," "Get involved with a church ministry," and "Save another 5% of your income."

It was then that I paused, and in a moment of reflection, I came to understand that the goals I was setting for myself, while certainly worthy in terms of my basic responsibilities to family, society and myself, ultimately failed to address the full potential of my human dignity. Let me explain.

Perhaps because I'm getting older (or maturing with style as I prefer to say), the "American Dream" in a materialistic sense no longer satisfies in a meaningful way, if indeed it ever did. Sure, a nice house, an enjoyable job, a decent income, a few luxuries, that is all fine, but these things in and of themselves do not have the capacity to bring lasting happiness. Yet, our culture insists that this is the epitome of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and we allow ourselves to be manipulated to spend billions of dollars and uncountable hours to obtain that which is passing. We do ourselves a grave disservice if this is as good as it gets. It's no wonder that we're so restless as a society and as individuals. We are served a diet of junk food to feed our human spirits.

On the contrary, in order to move forward, to set real, lasting and meaningful goals, I believe we need to look to the past, to the wisdom of the ancients, and re-integrate into our lives the best of what it means to be human. To start, we need to dust off the cardinal virtues of the Greeks: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance and add them to the spiritual virtues of faith, hope and charity. The historical legacy of our modern Western society is in large part the systematic discarding and deliberate forgetting of these fundamental touchstones of gracious fraternal living. Starting around 400 years ago with Descartes' "I think therefore I am" followed by Kant's "Copernican Turn" and supported by so-called Enlightenment thinkers such as Rousseau, Hobbes and Hume, Western society has been driven by one central theme: Man is the center of it all. Except today, in these post-modern times, we must now say the dominant theme is: I am the center of it all -- narcissism has been democratized.

The virtues are an antidote to this disease of "me-ness" and instead epitomize "other-ness." And it is in otherness that we find our true fulfillment. Dare I say that we were created for the "other" rather than for me, in and of myself? I believe that it is in giving of ourselves that we find ourselves, and we realize our true human dignity.

My uneasiness disappeared after this reflection, and I threw away my worn out resolutions. I then brought out a clean sheet of paper, and with a sense of sharp internal clarity, I revised my list to these three short goals:

*To be open to, support and work for the good of all, especially family, friends, co-workers, and especially those in some kind of need or distress

*To work every day to integrate the virtues into my life and do my best to act in accord with their tenets

*To thank God for his blessings, to ask for His strength to live a life of virtue, and for His forgiveness when I fall short of living such a life

Now, for those of you who are saving for a new boat, or putting money away for your son or daughter's college, or remodeling the kitchen, by all means resolve to do so. However, I would also invite to you put that which is truly enduring and most deeply satisfying at the top of your list of post-New Year's resolutions, and that is a life of virtue. And, if you happen to run into me in the coming year, I'd be grateful for your support in fulfilling my resolutions! I wish all of Team Hill the very best in the coming year.