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December 30, 2012

Question:  What are your personal resolutions for the new year?

 Allow me to turn the answer to reflections and resolutions for the new year. The idea of reviewing one’s behaviour, and resolving to improve, is no doubt very beneficial. Businesses, corporations and religious communities issue annual reports which include a review of the year’s performance. Why should we do any less for our individual spiritual life which holds much higher values at stake? In the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh counsels his followers to “bring thyself to account each day”  (The Hidden Words).

The person who never reviews personal actions with a view to improve character is stuck in self-satisfaction. Spiritual progress comes hard if one finds his character to be satisfactory in every way. Smugness or self-righteousness may result, a frequent criticism of the religious. Most of us have issues, but excessive scrupulosity can be self-defeating. Self-knowledge is subtle and challenging; subjectivity resists objectivity. The teachings of the prophets provide the best inventory of the self. Emotional healing requires skilled physicians.

Assuming we are dealing with overcoming bad habits, firm resolve is a necessary first step. But longstanding, ingrained, bad habits, usually require professional help.  Forgiveness of both self and others, which the renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung said was key in healing most of his patients, is helpful along the way. Self-and-other-forgiveness brings acceptance, and with acceptance, comes the possibility of real change. “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” said Alexander Pope in his Essay on Man. Hope is by nature optimistic; scepticism is by nature pessimistic. Which one best favours character development?

My personal resolutions, valid this new year and every year, are to be more thankful of the many rich blessings bestowed by the Creator, and to be content with my lot in life, secure in the knowledge that all our life-tests are stepping-stones not stumbling blocks, provided we accept them in the right spirit .

In ones sense, a believer’s greatest sin would be not to be happy, for life itself, so often taken for granted, is the greatest blessing because it provides the framework and possibility for everything else that we do. Resolve to be happy and to provide happiness to everyone in your life.   
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen December 30, 2012
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