With the new year starting, everyone is, has been, or will be compiling a list of Christian New Year’s Resolutions. I would like to give three pieces of advice for this season of change. Now, each list is specific to each person, so there are as many possibilities for the actual resolutions as there are people putting their resolutions together. Some of the most common ones that I have seen are these: to get into shape, to give up something, or to add something into the person’s schedule.

None of these pieces of advice are meant to be more things to add to one’s list of resolutions, but they are related to mistakes that people seem to make quite a bit.

The first on this list is this: Be nice to others. No one is perfect and each person has something that they are going through that is likely to be different from the next person. So those jokes and jabs about all of the resolutions that will not be fulfilled are not helpful in the slightest.  This is highly related to the “let he who is perfect cast the first stone” advice from Our Lord.  Before teasing someone else about not fulfilling their resolution, consider whether we ourselves have fulfilled our entire potential.

I have seen plenty of comments about how empty the gym is after February, suggesting that all of the people who put “working out” as a resolution have given up already. But what it fails to take into account is that these resolutions are usually made over the holiday break, so once the usual chaos of normal life hits, it is increasingly difficult to make good on the promises made when things were easier.

So it is best to approach these things with some charity. If that is not for you, then maybe put “be more charitable” on your resolutions list.  Perhaps that should remain on everybody’s list for the foreseeable future.

The second on this list is this: Be nice to yourself. In the grand scheme of things, the calendar year is somewhat irrelevant when it comes to making an effort to be better spiritually, medically, etc. While it is each individual’s responsibility to work on him or herself, it is not healthy to wallow in self-pity. I mean, I somewhat believe that nothing gets done without a certain level of self-hatred (or the feeling that you always need to do better) but self-pity is relatively useless.  Self-pity is generally the enemy of energy, and a lack of energy robs our ability to improve ourselves.

Instead of falling into the pit of self-doubt and pity, channel it into something like frustration which has the potential to launch you into completing your list of resolutions.  Or better yet, channel it into prayer, which always offers us the opportunities for genuine comfort and insight into improving our behavior.

The third on this list is this: Don’t forget God. Before Lent or Advent, there are hordes of people saying that they are going to give up chocolate, whether or not chocolate is even a problem for them. New Year’s is no different. People seem to focus on their physical health more than their intellectual or spiritual health. While it is important not to neglect the physical completely, it should never be cultivated at the expense of the spirit.  Why not resolve to pray more often or of a type you have not done before?  The rosary came directly from Our Lady.  The Psalms are a school of how to pray.  Lectio Divina keeps us rooted in scripture.

Consider reading about the saint whose feast day it is every day of the new year.  Or read the writings of the Doctors of the Church for 30 minutes before bed?  We are Christian. There are as many ways to improve our spiritual health as there are saints that show us the way.

And if all else fails, resolve to pet the dog more.  God gave us dogs to teach us about unconditional love.