I admit it. I overindulged in Grandma's double-chocolate cheesecake, inhaled my daughter's heavenly cinnamon rolls and did a face-plant in my wife's hot apple pie a la mode.
Meanwhile, I abandoned the treadmill and loved every minute of it! Holiday gluttony aside, do I have to eat celery sticks and alfalfa sprouts the rest of the year as my penance? Not if I can help it.
My New Year's resolution this year is to abandon all New Year's resolutions. Even that resolution is doomed to failure. We should rename such resolutions for what they are: wishful thinking.
When it comes to holiday overeating and the inevitable remorse of January resolutions, we are liars. We "fool" ourselves with the December fiction of future healthy behavior in order to misbehave in the here and now. But like impulse purchases, the debt of our self-indulgence requires us to pay the piper eventually. Besides, our wallets and bathroom scales are bad liars.
The truth is that self-control and a balanced life make seasonal resolutions unnecessary. A wise man once said, "The more control from within, the less control from without."
Just as New Year's resolutions don't work, so it is with seasonal discipleship. Spiritual balance and steady discipleship trump the fad diets of one-doctrine worship, or the pick-and-choose beliefs in which we falsely promise to embrace all of the gospel at some elusive future date. Fads and seasonal resolutions tend to rise and recede with the tide of pop culture. They are not effective in permanently improving behavior because they ignore the undertow of the tide itself.
For example, sometimes we immerse ourselves in the scriptures at the expense of applying them, or we overemphasize certain meetings at the cost of ministering. We become "hearers of the word" and not "doers."
When we pick and choose which commandments to follow or which doctrines fit our current lifestyle, we settle into the expedience of a false comfort zone. The more we settle for convenience, the easier it becomes to overindulge our egos and lie to ourselves about how we'll tackle the beast of self-confrontation next time, next year.
Be the tortoise
Like the tortoise in Aesop's fable, slow and steady really does win the race. New Year's resolutions and seasonal discipleship are like the hare in the fable: prone to extremes and braggadocio, filled with good intentions, but living a reactive life with fits and stops rather than acting upon life with firm goals and a balanced, steady pace.
"We frequently look about us and see people who incline to extremes, who are fanatical,” President Joseph F. Smith said. “We may be sure that this class of people do not understand the gospel. They have forgotten, if they ever knew, that it is very unwise to take a fragment of truth and treat it as if it were the whole thing" (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., 1939, 122).
In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin gave us the prophetic solution to seasonal discipleship when he counseled, "Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his" (Mosiah 5:15).
Steadfast and immovable
Elder David A. Bednar masterfully teaches the blueprint for becoming steadfast and immovable. This blueprint is to believe in the teachings and prophecies of the holy prophets through ancient and modern scripture, which leads to faith, repentance and a mighty change of heart when these steps are faithfully followed (see Elder David A. Bednar, "Steadfast and Immovable, Always Abounding in Good Works," New Era, January, 2008, pp. 2-6).
Christ is our ultimate exemplar: "Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:27). Though each of us falls short in our emulation of the Son of God, like the standard and the standard bearer, we also should be steadfast and immovable.
By following the Savior and the holy prophets, we gain the quiet confidence of the tortoise and learn to wink at the world's braggart-hares. Putting one foot in front of the other, we progress toward the only finish line that matters.
We may stray from healthy eating during the holidays, but the abundance of empty calories won't sabotage the most satisfying resolution ever devised: steady feasting on the word of God, followed by a regular, well-paced walk in the footsteps of the Master.
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law in Gilbert, Ariz. A former Phoenix stake president, he serves on the high council for the Queen Creek Chandler Heights Stake. He is active in Arizona Interfaith and a U.S. Air Force veteran. He is an adjunct professor of business law and ethics at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. He and his wife are the proud parents of seven children and 13 grandchildren.
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