Come January most of us are thinking about new goals for a new year. Even if we don’t declare our resolutions, in all likelihood, we have decided on a few things we should do better. Maybe we want to read our Bibles more, pray more, exercise more, evangelize more, or do anything more that we didn’t prioritize last year like we should. And so we decide on specific benchmarks for the next 365 days. It’s a good plan. But I am starting to wonder if the best kinds of resolutions aren’t in the category of doing more, but rather being more.
To put it another way, maybe resolutions that emphasize character and growth are more beneficial than goals that include numbers and benchmarks.
To Do More or To Be More?
Don’t get me wrong, practical goals and measurable success markers are often necessary. Sometimes we don’t know if we are making progress unless we define what it is we need to do. Furthermore, sometimes the first step to progress is just taking that first practical step forward. So here me say that specific goals are good.
However, we must remember that who we are is the foundation for what we do. And more often than not, it’s who we are that prevents us from continuing to do what we should do. It’s what makes most of us fail at our New Year’s resolutions come February.
Consider the principle in Matthew 6:45. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Meaning, we could make resolves all day long about the types of words we’ll work on, but unless we fix our heart, the words that reflect who we are will spring forth. So perhaps the goal should be: let’s fix who we are.
A Practical Example
How do we focus on who we are instead of only focusing on what we do? I imagine the first step is thinking through what prevents us from becoming who we should be. For example, if you know you need to grow in evangelism, think through what will stop you.
Is it fear of man?
Are you lacking a passion for the gospel?
Do you lack compassion for the lost?
Those issues relate to your heart, and that should be the first focus. Work on strengthening your character. Maybe you need to grow your compassion, or your excitement for the gospel, maybe you need to become more bold. Pray God will help you become more pleasing to him in that specific way. Start learning how to make progress in becoming who God wants you to be (listen to sermons, read books, ask for prayer, etc.). And then, after the character goal becomes primary, that’s when specific measurable goals can be tacked on. But the key is wanting your actions to flow from your heart; so start working there first.
Even when it comes to everyday type goals like eating healthy or exercise — could it be that we will make more progress if we focus on a character issue, such as increasing discipline or fighting laziness? We could claim we will work out 4 times every week for the rest of our lives, but if we have lazy tendencies, we’re likely to forsake the goal pretty quickly.
The Main Issue
As Christians, I imagine most of our goals revolve (or should revolve) around becoming more pleasing to God. And when you put that goal in the forefront of your mind you might take a different approach to your resolutions.
Think of it like this: As a parent you want your children to obey you. You want them to do the right things (even if it’s not flowing from their heart). But more than a child who just obeys the rules and checks the right boxes, you want a child with a soft heart, an obedient spirit, one who’s embracing kindness and generosity and patience. Even if your child isn’t perfect in their actions, you are pleased in who they are becoming.
So I’m suggesting that while we ought to make progress in very specific ways, we should remember that our God is a Father who wants his children to not only do the right things, but be the right kind of people. And maybe our goals should start there.
Ultimately godly actions will flow if we have godly character (Luke 6:43-44). So starting with character is a win-win. Not to mention, when we are godly, our new godly actions and habits are more likely to stick because they are flowing out of who we are.
All that to say, consider making some goals this year that focus on being more, not just doing more.