I love New Year’s Resolutions. Heck, I love all kinds of goals and every excuse to make them and renew them. And I’ve resolved to never do them the same way twice. So, for 2014, I wrote this post about my goals for the year in the form of 6 different words that I want to be committed to this year. I thought it would be fun to take some time to explore each of the words and how they are weaving into my life in this season. The first one is creative. The second one is strong. The third one is simple. The fourth one is quiet.
The fifth one is AWARE.
a·ware əˈwe(ə)r/ adjective:
1. having knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.
2. concerned and well-informed about a particular situation or development.
synonyms: conscious of, mindful of, informed about, acquainted with, familiar with, alive tol, alert to.
antonyms: ignorant, oblivious
I want to be an aware person.
Of all six of my “Words for 2014”, this is the one I get the most quizzical looks in response to. I always explain this way – the most hurtful things I do come as a result of impatience and a lack of attention to what I’m saying or doing. If I can make the effort to be present and AWARE in each day, I can avoid the missteps that come from being oblivious to the feelings of those around me. Practicing this mindfulness is definitely a discipline that I continuously need to improve, but the results of this habit have been monumental in my interactions with those who are closest to me.
I don’t know if you have this experience, but so often I find myself driving home after spending time with friends and either thinking of things that I did say but shouldn’t have, or things I didn’t say but should have. The French even have a term for this – “L’esprit de l’escalier” – which describes the predicament of thinking of the right thing to say later, when you are walking up the stairs to your home. So great. It just makes me realize how much sweeter my life could be if I’d simply think before I speak. Ergo, a practice of awareness.
I’ve already written about the practice of being quiet, and I know that sometimes I use that as my crutch to avoid engaging in messy conversations. Admittedly, when I’m not sure if I can “win” or be “right,” I’d rather check out of the conversation under the guise of being quiet than have to invest and admit that there are grey areas in life and that I don’t always have the answers.
Sometimes, those of us who are innately very competitive are good at recognizing each competition and choosing whether to compete or not, obviously trying to avoid failing and only choose places we can be successful.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Knowingly investing in the person in front of me in each moment is challenging. Paying attention to the things they say, and the things they don’t say, means ignoring my aspirations for any interaction or conversation and focusing on serving them. I wish I could say I were better at this. The conscious decision to set aside one’s own goals of fulfillment, attention, or approval, is that particular sort of choice that makes your inner person cling so tightly to its own desires that you aren’t sure how to wrestle them away to set them open-handedly before God, or another person.
On top of all that, “being aware” isn’t a goal that has a particular end in sight. I want to be attentive and present with people. That will undoubtedly connotate some action, first to pay attention to the person, then to respond appropriately to the things noticed. I don’t like that kind of open-ended, hardly-measurable kind of goal. If I can’t measure it, how can I know if I’ve been “successful”? What do I do, then?!?
And that’s where I find myself these days – trying to avoid even acknowledging this nebulous goal that I still manage to fall short of so often, but trying to keep that competitive, legalistic nature at bay long enough to have deep, meaningful interactions and serve the people around me.
As you can surely tell, these goals have ended up being beautifully formational and frustratingly unachievable. Sounds just about right.