By David Hegg
Every new year brings the promise of improvement. Our great hope is that this year will be better than the one just past. We hope for better health, a better economy, and a better experience of life in important areas. We want better relationships, less worry, and far less tragedy. And, ironically, we think that somehow simply hoping and wanting and wishing will bring change. But all too soon the brutal fact hits us in the face: If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’ve got! If we want something better, we have to get better ourselves.
Years ago my good friend Craig Phillips locked me into a conversation about what we both wanted our lives to become over the next five years. When I asked him what he wanted to be a few years down the line, he offered a one-word answer: “Better. I just want to be better, in every area of my life that matters.”
I have never forgotten that conversation, and I have often reminded myself of the utter brilliance of his answer. Too often we attempt to make great changes only to fail because we are just not fit enough to endure great change. We’re not emotionally tough enough to sustain the sacrifices it will take to make up for years of selfish choices. What is necessary is to realize that it may take as long to undo something as it took to do it.
Take the perpetual battle of the waistline. I can imagine that 90% of the people reading this column are like me, overweight. I can also imagine that most of us will make some sort of New Year’s resolution about exercising more, eating less, and eating better. And in the back of our minds, we’re hoping to drop 20, 30 or 50 pounds. But who are we kidding? It took us several years to go from svelte to swollen! What makes us think we’ll lose those pounds before Memorial Day? And that’s the problem. We start with unrealistic expectations and then demoralize when they aren’t met. And usually, in our demoralized state we go back to eating junk and end up gaining even more weight. And you can take this illustration and change the problem, and it still will hold true.
So, what to do? Here’s the deal: Let’s set our minds to just get better. Don’t set some outlandish weight loss goal or exercise goal or some other goal that is actually a wish-dream. Just be determined to be better today and do it again tomorrow. And if you’re trying to drop some weight, don’t set a target weight. If you do, then when you hit it you’ll revert back to your “normal” way of life. Rather, make it your goal to be better tomorrow than today. We all know that what is needed isn’t some special diet or 30-day plan. What is necessary is a change of life that has to begin with a change of mind.
At this point, my integrity forces me to tell you some hard truth. You will never get better without some pain, some sacrifice. If what you’ve got now is the result of what you’re doing, then you’ll have to stop doing it and start doing something better. And better usually means going against the selfish, easy, comfortable choices you’ve been making for some time. The bottom line is this: you’ve got to become the master of your own will rather than let your desires fuel your will to the degree that it overrules your mind, and takes your body down the wrong path. Quit being such a patsy! It’s time you stopped abdicating your role as master of your life and take back control. And if you do, and if you persevere, next year at this time, you’ll look back and be able to say, “I’m so much better.”
May you all have a happy, and prosperous, and better New Year!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.