New Year’s resolutions are iffy. Only time will tell, because they demand a struggle.
Nike’s slogan “Just Do It!” sounds so chic, it makes struggle trendy. Especially if it’s Michael Jordan who says it. He is a megabucks sports superstar.
Meritocracy is the enabler of well-deserved success in life. We’ve got to sweat it out to earn our bragging rights. “Just Do It” is a rule of life, whether we pursue material or spiritual goals.
Some resolutions are born of life-threatening situations. I quit cigarettes 40 years ago because of a cancer scare, and smoking giving me migraines.
Traumatic events can trigger resolutions. A friend stopped, cold turkey, his marital infidelity when he realized the horrendous mental torture suffered by his wife and children.
Encounters with the mystical can result in resolutions. I’ve met someone who underwent a near-death experience. While comatose, his spirit levitated toward the pearly gates, only to hear a voice telling him to go back because it was not yet his time. When he recovered, he decided to devote most of his time to doing Samaritan work in a hospice for the terminally ill.
In ancient Greece (circa 400 BC), the Spartans practiced regimented physical and mental struggle to build an invincible warrior culture. Spartan discipline is still practiced today by prestigious military academies like West Point in America and the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City.
Search for Excellence, the latest management theory, has been adapted by many corporations in order to compete in a cost-driven globalized market. The theory demanded that work excellence be ritualized in people’s work attitudes and habits. It required career reinvention, organizational reengineering and retooling in manufacturing systems. Struggles abound. The goal is quality products and services at competitive cost.
Kaizen or Total Quality Management (TQM) was the corporate culture adopted by Japan in order to achieve worldwide product superiority and brand dominance. Kaizen utilized employee quality circles to regularly evaluate improvements in product quality and manufacturing systems. Employees are empowered to innovate and implement quality strategies.
In the Christian world, struggle is ritualized. They become exercises in the pursuit of perfection, advocated by the Old and New Testament and required by doctrines.
“Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
“If you want to follow me, take up your cross daily and follow me.”
Self-control is essential in avoiding sin. With Catholics, the struggle for self-denial is fulfilled with mortification, fasting or giving up pleasurable activities during the Lenten season.
Many individualists and secularists disdain the idea of struggle. Some act as champions, using the aegis of human rights, in promoting many privileges and pleasures in today’s multi-choice consumerist society, without regard for the sensitivity of the poor, bastardization of time-honored ethics, and wanton disregard for ecological havoc.
Man’s tendencies to narcissistic and hedonistic allure bring him to the edge of masochism. Ultimately, it’s his free will that will save or damn him.
St. Augustine (Bishop of Hippo 395 AD), philosopher, theologian, behaviorist and doctor of the church, underwent a gut-wrenching soliloquy with God on good versus evil. He talked passionately, exposing his soul, naked in his struggle with sexuality. St. Augustine worshipped God with muscular strength, intellectually blending the powers of faith and reason. Excerpts from the confessions of St. Augustine:
“Clouds arose from the shiny desires of the flesh and from youth’s seething spring. They clouded over and darkened my soul that I could not distinguish the calm light of chaste love from the joy of lust. Both kinds of affection burned confusedly within me and swept my feebly youth over the crags of desire, and plunged me into a whirlpool of shameful deeds. Your wrath was raised above me but I know it not. I had been deafened by the clanking chains of my mortality, the penalty of my pride of soul. I wandered farther away from you and you let me go.”
The call for universal holiness is as ancient as the Holy Bible. Two of the greatest sacraments, Confession and Holy Eucharist, are prescriptions to help Catholics succeed in their struggle to live Christ-like lives.
G.K. Chesterton, English philosopher, wit and writer, when asked why he converted from Agnosticism to Catholicism, answered, “I want my sins to be forgiven.”