For the January church newsletter I wrote about writing New Year’s Resolutions. This last week I received an email from The Barna Group, a survey group that poses questions across the country centering on faith issues. Their missive focused on their nationwide survey of 1,022 adults which provided a snapshot on the role of resolutions in the lives of people. They entitled their article, “Individualism Shines Through Americans’ 2011 New Year’s Resolutions.” I immediately thought that when a person makes an individual resolution then individualism doesn’t have a choice but to shine through. I kept on reading anway.
According to their poll the top pledges for 2011 relate to weight, diet and health (30%); money, debt and finances (15%); personal improvement (13%); addiction (12%); job and career (5%); spiritual or church-related (5%); and educational (4%). Personal improvement responses included being a better person; giving more; having more personal or leisure time; organizing their life or home; and having a better life in general.
The article then went on to say, “When people concentrate on themselves when making prioties for the New Year, it is telling that so few Americans say they want to improve relationships with others. There were virtually no mentions of volunteering or serving others; only a handful of comments about marriage or parenting; almost no responses focusing on being a better friend; and only a small fraction of people mentioned improving their connection with God.”
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, added a note of explanation to these findings by writing, “Americans hinge their efforts at personal change by focusing almost exclusively on themselves, rather than realizing that lasting change often comes by serving and sacrificing for others.” His comments and the Barna survey portray a national culture that is self-centered and self-serving. I’m aware that within our culture such individualistic attributes exist, but I also see people, both “churched” and “un-churched” linking themselves to the larger world through a myriad of service opportunities.
One of the rapidly growing interests at Nardin Park is “Heart Works,” a monthly gathering of people going into the community to help serve in whatever manner they can. People are passionate about helping others. I think the Barna Group missed the wider picture by narrowly focusing on a topic which begins with individual inputs that can’t help but produce individualistic responses. Oh, yes, people can be selfish, but there are so many people who are more than willing to be selfless for the sake of others.
In the January 2011 newsletter I offered a set of resolutions that could be seen as individualistic, but in reality they set us within the context of the importance of community for our lives and for each other. I offer them again for our consideration.
- In 2011, I’m going to celebrate what an unbelievable life we have had so far: the accomplishments, and, yes, even the hardships because they have served to make us stronger.
- I will go through 2011 with my head held high, and with a happy heart.
- In 2011, I will share my excitement for life with other people. I’ll make someone smile. I’ll go out of my way to perform an unexpected act of kindness for someone I don’t even know.
- In 2011, I’ll give a sincere compliment to someone who seems down. I’ll tell a child how special she or he is, and I’ll tell someone just how much they mean to me.
- In 2011 I won’t worry about what I don’t have and I will live to the fullest with what I do have.
- In 2011 I’ll remember that worry, pettiness and discouraging words are just wastes of time.
- As each days ends, I will sleep the sleep of a contented child, excited with expectation because I know 2011 is going to be a very good year in my life!