Lose Weight….Exercise More….Save More Money: these all sound familiar, right? New Year’s resolutions often revolve around banishing poor habits and establishing better ones. But one resolution that has gained traction in recent years (according to nation-wide polls) is a bit more complex: Be A Better Person.*
How to be a better person? And is that a habit you can establish? My first thought was, well, if one wants to be a better person that might look like being kinder and more patient with others, and behaving less selfishly. So there are some simple, concrete ways to be “better.” But really, though, being a better person is a lifelong process, I would think. It requires a lot of reflection, and internal awareness. You’d have to be open to criticism, and be willing to change. You’d have to be okay with getting uncomfortable, accepting new information and then acting on it. And really, will there ever be a time when you can say, okay, I can stop now, I’m a better person? So on second glance, the goal to be a better person seems somewhat fraught. I would not want to set it as a goal only to not reach it! Soon you’d be thinking, man, I suck – I’m a horrible person! And really, are ALL resolutions somewhat similarly doomed? That we set these goals for ourselves every New Year, and then feel awful when we don’t achieve them? Is there a kinder, gentler way to change, grow, evolve?
This year, San Gabriel is trying an experiment. We have joined with over 150 other UU churches in following a themed monthly curriculum called Soul Matters. Each month we will embrace this new theme in worship, small groups, and religious education. Small groups will be able to expand on a sermon topic, and families can continue discussing at home what was first heard by all at church. The Wonder Box story will reflect both the sermon topic and relate to the classroom lesson. We will have time, as a community, to explore deeply together. And for January, that theme is Intention.
Intention is in some ways similar to resolution, in that it expresses a willingness to reflect and a desire to grow. I’m sure that’s why Soul Matters chose it as the theme for January. But unlike resolution, where the focus is on the goal or what, with intention the focus is on the behavior or the how. So, to get back to our resolution to be a better person…. With intention, instead of resolving to be more patient, you say “Today I want to be more present.” A subtle but important shift! Instead of setting the goal to be less selfish, you say “Today I want to feel more generous.” With intention, we give ourselves room to grow, to try, and to make mistakes!
And of course, as always, moving forward with intention is easier in a supportive environment. Grounded in our UU faith, San Gabriel can be a place of power for you in this! This month I am very excited to share with our families a small calendar of weekly discussion topics and around our theme of intention. And it’s my intention (see what I did there?) to do so every month, on every theme. This year, with the help of Soul Matters, I look forward to helping you develop your connection to our faith throughout the week, not just on Sundays. May it be so!
Dir. Of Religious Education
*Many thanks to Rachael Jonrowe for bringing this to my attention!