The new year and challenging men: some thoughts on goals and resolutions

I am right there with you.  The new year comes and I start thinking through some goals that I would like to work on for the new year.  In the past, I failed at keeping those “resolutions” like so many others.  I then was filled with condemnation and guilt because I could never live up to Johnathan Edwards resolutions and was defeated and the “goal” faded on to the next “fire” in my life that God was working on.

In the last 10 years or so though, this has changed for me.  I no longer struggle with a list of things that I need to work on, and my New Year’s resolutions are not insurmountable.  Here is what I discovered about breaking this vicious cycle in the past.

  1. I learned to take my heart to task on the ‘resolutions’ I was seeking and explore who was getting the glory for them.  A great resource for this is “10 Questions to Ask of New Year’s Resolutions.
  2. I learned that my desire for control and glory also contributed to work on a myriad of things versus a few concise things.  For instance, “I need to work on my anger, my health, my marriage, my work relationships, my personal development etc.”  Instead, I started prayerfully seeking God about a single or concise theme that would providentially cover ALL those things.  For instance, for 2018, this resolution for me is that I will immerse myself in “Gospel Identity, Fluency & Listening”  Trust me, these three concise areas are going to hit every ‘resolution’ I want to achieve and check off.
  3. I learned you cannot do it alone.  Without accountability (biblical accountability is sought, NOT someone seeking you or babysitting you) and fellowship and left to my own desires, goals, and resolutions, tend to fade.  However, with a few other brothers committed to biblical accountability and fellowship, I have seen great things happen in my and other men’s lives.  This includes valuing other people’s time.  For guys to get together, to complete reading assignments, travel to the location, time away from family, after working all day, etc, means they are taking away from other areas of their life.  If you ask guys to do this, then I need to practice common courtesy (I know if I have to work before the 11th hour of the gathering – so I give people notice), I don’t go off on tangents not related to the group purpose and material, and I do the work and come prepared to receive from the other men who have done the same.  However if believe its all about me, I cancel last minute, manipulate, make excuses, rationalize and justify.
  4. Stop listening to the psycho-babble of the culture regarding what you should be working on.  Years ago I read an article and book on this, and it was a major turning point in my walk and the level of discernment I have regarding our culture and what they deem I should be working on as a male.  Today the world is telling me I need a man-bun, drink craft beer, and get involved with social justice. Yeah probably not… although I have enjoyed some craft beer from time to time.  Patrick Morley wrote a great article on this a few years ago that I think is relevant still and guys need to be reminded of.
  5. Integrity is a big deal.  C.S. Lewis saw that we were becoming a culture of “men without chests.”  I agree.  Doing what you say you are going to do, following up on commitments, etc are just a few things that encompass integrity.  I am also resolved not to participate in paternalism (doing for others what they could do for themselves).  In men’s ministry, this means, inviting 3-4 guys to a group instead of just one so that there is still a small group with someone cancels because their gerbil needs a haircut.  It means NOT buying books for everyone because sometimes folks do not understand the value of things that are free. There are many types of paternalism, and growing in the discernment of them has really helped me with goals and resolutions.

So I say/write all this as received a text from a guy in my group canceling the night before (this guy begged me to meet and there is a history of canceling the last minute), and I thought, how could I disciple dudes on New Year’s resolutions and goals, and be reminded of my 2018 resolutions without getting frustrated and disappointed.  I hope this short article helps you to think through a few things when it comes to goals and resolutions.