Orthodox Help on Keeping Resolutions (from Sunday’s bulletin)

As Orthodox Christians, we can draw on a lot of wisdom on how to improve our lives.  As we go into the New Year and all its hopes, let me share some nuggets that I have found useful.

  • Resolution (i.e. “willpower”) is not enough.  Our faith is built around this reality.  If we want to become better people, we have to built routines that make good behavior more automatic.  Ever wonder why our worship is so different?  It is because wisdom shows that good “ritual” is at least important as good “ideas” or “knowledge” for getting people to live well.  The idea is to allow the intentionality of liturgical ritual to spread throughout our lives.  The following are specific applications of this truth.

  • Reduce anxiety and stress through meditation/prayer.  As Americans, we are problem solvers.  When we are stressed, we instinctively look for stressors and start fighting them.  This often misses the point: if we are not peaceful, then our anxious minds will find or even create stressors to blame for our agitation.  When we are peaceful, our minds stop looking for trouble.  A prayer rule that includes scripted prayers (e.g. morning and evening prayers; Communion prayers), intercessory prayers (e.g. praying for family, friends, our parish), and silence will change our lives.  If it were a pill, everyone would take it… I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this.  There are no negative side effects.

  • Eat better/lose weight.  How can we ritualize our eating?  Fasting is not a diet for weight loss, but it does give us a healthier relationship with our food.  Praying (out loud, with others, making the sign of the cross) before every meal and snack does the same.  As with prayer, I am amazed (and disheartened) by how few people take advantage of this.  Good fasting leads to a healthier life.

  • Money troubles.  How do we ritualize our use of money?  Like praying before meals, proportional giving teaches us to see every incoming check as a gift.  “Dues” just add a bill to the pile.  Family budgeting (sitting down and “giving every dollar a name/purpose”) is also essential. It will also show us where our priorities are.  The combination of budgeting and tithing will bring fiscal freedom to our lives.

We were meant for better than we have settled for – let the New Year bring the blessings of a life in Christ.  Christian habits/routines/rituals are the building blocks of that life.