New Year’s Day gives us an opportunity to start anew
If the end of the year is about forgiveness, then the beginning of the year must be about starting anew. In that respect, perhaps there is a reason for the week lag between Christmas and New Year’s Day, not to allow us to take back all the presents that we don’t want or shop the year end clearance sales (although we partake of both). Just maybe, it is to give us time to truly contemplate what it means to be forgiven.
Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. It is to wipe the slate clean, to pardon a grievous wrong, and to cancel the debts owed. While we might be inclined to turn this towards ourselves (other people should forgive us), it is rather oriented outward. All we have is the capacity to forgive others, not unilaterally absolve ourselves of our sins.
In addition, we must learn to forgive ourselves. It is far easier to bear the burden of another’s rebuke than it is to stop the insidious erosion of who we were meant to be. Left unforgiven, our sins will eat our very soul. To forgive ourselves is to accept a gift we do not deserve but are given none the less.
This may seem a contradiction, that we can be absolved of our transgressions, yet not be overtly forgiven by others. It is something we cannot overcome alone.
The fact is that one human cannot truly forgive another. Perhaps we can break the bond that ties us to hatred and retribution, but we cannot reach into another’s heart and force them to accept it. Nor can we force them to accept their own divine forgiveness.
Yet, to really understand that we are unconditionally accepted, requires us to do so to others. How can we really have been released if we still harbor hatred and envy against another?
Sadly, we mortals are not truly capable of this task. So long as we reside here on earth, we will remain flawed regardless of our progress along life’s journey. The best we can manage is to try to accept our own forgiveness and do our best to reciprocate to others.
This is how we can begin with that clean slate. “God grant me an unflawed beginning today, for I have done nothing yet.” It is a meaningful way to start any day, but holds so much more power when the day is January 1st. It is the symbolic New Beginning.
But, what does it mean to start anew? Perpetually, we make resolutions to improve ourselves. We pray for a better year than the past: more prosperity, better health, and fewer trials. Yet, we rarely let go. What happened yesterday too often clouds our perception of the possible today.
Yes, we want to start over again, but seem ever incapable of doing so. In breaking free, that forgiveness we find so hard to receive, is the key. So, that must be the first order of business: accept we are forgiven.
Next, we must find what makes us unique. Take a personal inventory and measure the gifts and talents we have been given. Putting them to use gives us purpose.
This brings us to a significant question, “Which is the greater failing, to misuse what we have been given or to not use them at all? We can be better than we are, but only through understanding that to allow our talents to go unused is a perhaps a greater sin than using them for ill.
We all too frequently get side-tracked. Petty battles and the desire to get even so often cause us to put our gifts to unproductive use. We must focus our recognized imperfect capabilities to do something meaningful with our lives. This is why forgiveness is so important. It frees up resources that have been locked away in fruitless battle.
To overcome this, we must also realize our personal limitations. Internalizing these keeps us in the “realm of the possible.” It also sets benchmarks for improvement. All too often, because we do not understand our potential, we create self-imposed boundaries. Don’t be afraid to aim high, to hope and dream, to have Faith. It is what sets us apart from other creatures in Nature.
Now for the really tough part. How do we put this together? We need a plan. In that respect, strategy is the “Handmaiden of Faith.” Strategy is the allocation of limited resources to accomplish prioritized objectives in a competitive environment. Isn’t finding a way to do this our true challenge in life?
So, as we start the New Year our task, simply put, is that we must develop a personal strategy, a pathway that connects what we are to what we can be. It is the way we truly fill our role on earth and put to best use what God has given us.
Happy New Year and may you find your “New Beginning.”