SO, how are those New Year’s resolutions going? One study suggests that 92% of us will fail to keep the resolutions we made. And if you are hanging in there so far, don’t assume you will be in the 8% of successful “resolvers”. Check back at Valentine’s Day, because this study found that 80% of resolutions falter by the second week of February.
This is especially frustrating for Christians who set spiritually oriented resolutions, like a more consistent daily prayer habit or reading through the Bible in a year. It is bad enough to stumble in an effort to lose weight or stop binge-watching TV, but when you feel like you have failed drawing closer to God, that is deeply disheartening. And those who are demoralized find it even more difficult to be motivated.
If you are already disappointed in yourself because a resolution has come to a screeching halt, I have some advice for you. Actually, it’s not my advice – it is something I picked up from a great little book called Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, by Jon Acuff. Acuff suggests that the root of such failures is the lie of perfectionism.
So for instance, let’s say you started a daily Bible reading plan, but Wednesday your kids were hit by a stomach bug, and you completely forgot to do the reading. What often happens is that this thought creeps in – “I’ve already blown it, so I might as well just forget doing a daily reading this year.” Real life has a way of interrupting our sincerely conceived resolutions, preventing us to flawlessly execute them each and every day.
The lie here is that merely because you weren’t able to carry out the resolution perfectly, you might as well quit (Acuff says that might as well is “one of the most dangerous phrases in the English language” – p. 11). But think about it – suppose you missed the entire first week of daily Bible reading, but the next week you picked up where you should have been and worked through the rest of the year. This would mean that at the end of the year you will have read 98% of the Bible. Would you be closer to your spiritual goals as a result of that? Of course!
This is why Acuff says that “the day after perfect” is crucial. How do you respond the day after your streak of reading or praying ends? Do you succumb to the lie of perfectionism, or do you resume reading or praying, knowing that an imperfect habit of spiritual renewal is far more valuable than no habit at all?
In the next few weeks I’ll share some more pointers from this book on how to finish what you start. But for now, take heart my faltering friends! The Christian life is a marathon, not a 100 yard dash, and any step forward is better than no step at all.