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Breaking resolutions isn’t what matters: The Bible’s take on what to do next

St Peter the apostle

Adam Jan Figel/Shutterstock

Saint Pierre, Michael Pacher (1435–1498), Belvedere Museum of Vienna.

Tom Hoopes - published on 01/10/22

If you've (already!) failed at that New Year's resolve, here's where the important part starts.

It’s January 10 — nearly two weeks into the New Year, and that means it is time to decide something very important: What will you do after you break your New Year’s resolution?

According to an often-cited Journal of Clinical Psychology report, more than 1 in 4 people who made serious New Year’s resolutions will break them this week. In three more weeks, a third of resolvers will have given up on their resolutions. Six months into the year, only a third will still be hanging on.

But the good news is that breaking resolutionsdoesn’t matter. What matters is what you do after you break your resolution. The Bible says so.

After his resurrection, Jesus gives Peter a masterclass on what to do with failed resolutions.

St. Peter failed early and often in his encounters with Christ — and at his resurrection, Jesus seemed to replay all of them for the leader of the Apostles.

Peter is taking the Apostles fishing when the risen Jesus calls out to them from the shore to “Cast the net over the right side of the boat.” 

  • The Apostles follow his orders, and bring in a haul of fish. This must have made Peter remember the first resolution he resisted with Jesus, when Jesus told him to set out into the deep and let his nets down for a catch.
  • Next, Peter leaps into the water to get to the Lord on the shore. Into the water, not onto the water. This must have recalled for him the time he failed to follow his resolution to walk to Jesus on water.
  • After breakfast with the Lord, Jesus asks him three times “Do you love me?” which of course recalls the biggest resolution fail of Peter’s life — the failure in his resolution to never deny the Lord. When Peter says “yes,” Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.”

In each case, Jesus is showing Peter that his mistakes don’t define him — he can always start again.

Mark’s rise from biblical ignominy to biblical glory.

Mark, who was also known as John, was a notorious failure in his Christian mission. 

He came from a great Christian family, which Peter knew he could count on after getting miraculously released from prison. Barnabas and Paul relied on Mark in their next missionary journey — until it got too tough, and Mark quit

His work ethic, or lack thereof, later caused a rift between himself and Paul, which then ballooned into a rift between Barnabas and Paul.

Nonetheless, tradition says this is the same Mark who wrote the fourth Gospel and is depicted as a lion in iconography. His failures were notorious, but by trying again, he rallied to become one of the most decorated and celebrated saints of all time.

My favorite example of how to break resolutions comes from the Way of the Cross.

Jesus Christ shared all things with us except sin. That meant in his will, he never failed to complete a resolution. But among the things he shared with us was our weakness — as is shown in the three falls depicted in the Stations of the Cross. They aren’t in Scripture, but they are a great example about how to handle failure.

His first fall tells us not to worry even when failure comes right away.In one station, Jesus accepts his cross. In the very next one, he falls. That’s a huge consolation for those of us who fail at the first hurdle. If that happens, and it will, simply do what Jesu did: Get back up.

His second fall teaches us not to worry when we fail after getting help.Three things happen in succession: his mother consoles him, Simon helps him, Veronica comforts him — and then he falls again anyway. The lesson? Don’t be discouraged even if your personal failure is compounded because you seem to be failing your support team, too. Try again.

His third fall comes when the end is in sight.Right as he arrives at his goal, Calvary, where he will redeem mankind, Jesus falls once again. And that should be a consolation to those of us who don’t — quite — perfectly finish what we begin: Keep at it.

Which fall best describes how your resolutions have gone? Don’t let them define you. Define yourself by what you do next!

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