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Spirituality

Nine Spiritual New Year’s Resolutions

David Langness | Jan 1, 2024

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Jan 1, 2024

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the authoritative views of the Baha'i Faith.

It’s 2024, and you haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions yet? What?! Hey, who invented this crazy tradition, anyway?

Well, it turns out that just about every religion and ancient culture has some form of New Year’s resolutions.  

In fact, that’s why we call it January – because at the dawn of each Gregorian year the ancient Romans made promises of self-improvement to Janus, their god of beginnings and passages.  

That practice probably came originally from the even more ancient Babylonians, who had to promise to their gods at the beginning of each year that they would pay their debts and return the things they’d borrowed throughout the past year.

During the Jewish New Year, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, going through the High Holidays and ending in Yom Kippur, Jews reflect on their failings and wrongdoings in the year that has just passed, and then resolve to seek forgiveness – as well as offering their forgiveness to others.

RELATED: How to Avoid Feeling Envy in the New Year

Catholics and Anglicans have Midnight Mass, designed to help believers resolve to make their new year a more spiritual one than before; while many other Christians have a tradition called watchnight services, when they prepare for the year ahead by reflection, prayer and making resolutions. 

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, started their watchnight services in 1740, not only to offer an alternative to the typical drunken revelry on New Year’s Eve but to sing hymns, read from scripture, and resolve personally to lead a more spiritual life in the year ahead. Wesley called these watchnight observances “Covenant Renewal Services,” because they were intended to annually revitalize our characters and renew our covenant with the Creator.

In many African-American churches, watchnight first took on its special meaning on New Year’s Eve in 1863, when black American slaves crowded into their churches to await and celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st.

For Muslims and for Baha’is, their calendar’s New Year, which doesn’t happen on January 1st, coincides with the end of the annual fasting period. At that point, believers review their own spiritual development during the past year and commit to abstain from selfish desires, improve their spiritual lives, and serve others.

For Baha’is, the process of making resolutions for self-improvement happens not just annually, but daily. Baha’u’llah wrote: “Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds.

So this year, in the ongoing spirit of all these cultural and religious traditions, here’s a short set of potential spiritual resolutions we might all want to think about adopting and putting into practice. Let’s agree in advance to avoid the standard New Year’s resolutions – you know the ones – lose weight, travel more, have less stress, spend more time with the family, etc. Instead, these nine suggestions focus on our spiritual lives, offering resolutions for your consideration that we could all stand to make and keep:

  1. I resolve to start and end each waking day with a prayer of gratitude for my life.
  2. I resolve to not just tell, but to actively show love to my entire family – the human family.
  3. I resolve to work hard to rid myself of my prejudices – everyone has some, and we all would be better off without them.
  4. I resolve to practice a period of meditation every day – it doesn’t have to be long or involved, but it has to be a consistent practice of being alone to reflect on my true thoughts and feelings.
  5. I resolve to commit to a goal of service to others, by trying to make at least one human life better next year than it was before.
  6. I resolve to extend myself beyond my normal social and cultural groups this year – to reach out across the racial, class, and age barriers our society imposes on us – and befriend someone who isn’t exactly like me.
  7. I resolve to do something significant this year toward the goal of peace in the world, even if it’s just a small volunteer commitment in my own community or a new attitude about dealing with conflicts in a more peaceful way.
  8. I resolve to actively show more kindness, not just to the people around me, but to animals, too.
  9. Finally, I resolve to see the world as a place where all of my resolutions can make others – and myself – a happier, more radiant, and more spiritually-fulfilled person.

RELATED: A New Year’s Resolution to Try Again

In this spirit, Baha’u’llah advised all people to: 

Set before thine eyes God’s unerring Balance and, as one standing in His Presence, weigh in that Balance thine actions every day, every moment of thy life. Bring thyself to account ere thou art summoned to a reckoning …

If each one of us adopts and acts on even one of these spiritual New Year’s resolutions, we will inevitably create a kinder, more caring life for ourselves and those around us. What better new year could we hope for?

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Comments

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  • Dr. SR Yogesh
    Jan 2, 2024
    -
    Being able to love others is easy, being able to love yourself is hardest part. worst thing a human being can do to other is hating them. So my resolution is to show lots of empathy, love and kindness to all being those are aware of being alive.🙏🏽🫂
  • Thomas Tai-Seale
    Jan 2, 2023
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    Wonderful resolutions David. Thank you for all you do and all you've done for me and my family. Much love dear pal.
  • rodney Richards
    May 17, 2018
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    Number 8 is key on my list of interactions with others, taking opportunities to bring a smile to other's faces every day and night, no matter where I am or what I'm doing. It's hard at times, and a sense of humor and enthusiasm for life helps. it's the greatest feeling to bring a little ease or joy into someone's life and makes mine more joyful also.
  • Kari Carlson
    Jan 3, 2018
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    This is a great list. #3 requires that daily practice of taking ourselves into account.
  • Hamzah Jameel
    Jan 3, 2018
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    Amazing article! Really enjoyed it. Just wanted to point out, though, that the Islamic New Year is the first of Muharram, while the month of fasting starts on the first of Ramadan (the 9th month in the Islamic calendar). Bear in mind, the Islamic Hegira calendar has 12 months in total, so the Islamic New Year only comes three months after the end of the month of fasting (i.e., Shawwal, Zul-Qi'dih, Zul-Hijjih must pass before Muharram begins).
  • Saniata Darapiza
    Jan 2, 2018
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    Thanks again, David. May I share this to friends I he wider community.???
  • L Cole
    Jan 2, 2018
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    I hear your voice in your honest writing, David, heartfelt and beautifully written like an entry in a personal journal. I appreciate your sharing these powerful and meaningful resolutions for the next year. These are worthy of being taped to the bathroom mirror as a daily reminder as I/we start and end the day, seriously. Count me in!
  • Barbara MacMillan
    Jan 2, 2018
    -
    Islamic New Year 2018 will begin in the evening of Tuesday, September 11
    and ends in the evening of Wednesday, September 12.
    Naw Ruz is not the Islamic New Year.
    • Barbara MacMillan
      Jan 2, 2018
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      Re-read and see that you are saying the Islamic new year is after Ramadan.
  • Robert Harcourt
    Jan 2, 2018
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    I like these resolutions. I might add something about living respectfully towards the environment / planet that allows us to live, perhaps in 8 or 9.
  • Robert Green
    Jan 1, 2018
    -
    1 quote in the whole piece. :) and still you brought tears to me eyes :) on a roll David :)
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