Unlearning Evil: Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

A new year, an old tradition: the making of resolutions. Some of us will say No to nicotine this year, others will sweat and swear in torture chambers cleverly renamed elliptical machines. We’ll kick old habits, kick start new ones, and hope by February we’re not kicking ourselves for making and breaking yet another resolution. Whatever your goal this year, it’s best to keep it real by remembering this painful fact: it’s just as hard, if not harder, to unlearn an evil as to learn a good.

Pig-Wallowing-in-Mud2That seems to be the way it goes with me anyway. The bad habits and self-destructive ways of life we foster are, generally speaking, things that we thoroughly enjoy. “Let’s face it,” my mom once told me, while delivering a lecture on making the right moral decisions in high school, “sinning is fun.” It certainly can be, or pleasurable, or even downright exhilarating, depending on what your pet sin might be. That’s one reason, when you retreat and it woos you back, you return like a sow to wallowing in the mud. Pigs like their mud, we love our self-destructive ways of life. To unlearn them takes more than a day, a month, or a year of merely resolving to do better.

It also takes more than you. For we host an inner student who, when it comes to learning anything bad, always scores an A+. Evils find this ally within us. As Paul once lamented, “The good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish,” (Romans 7:19). Boy do we. It would be hard enough to unlearn evil and learn good if we were fully on the side of achieving those goals. But when a huge chunk of us remains unconvinced of the need for change, indeed, is hell-bent on not changing, then we’ve got major challenges ahead.

“A long obedience in the same direction.” I’ve come to love that saying. And I’ve come to hate it. I love it because of its truth, because it doesn’t offer me a quick fix, an overnight transformation of the self. And I hate it because of its truth, because it doesn’t offer me a quick fix, an overnight transformation of the self. One thing I know: I don’t want to be the same person I am now when I turn 50 or 65 or find myself on my deathbed. But if anything is going to change, I can’t wait until I’m 49 or 64 or get an inkling that I might be nearing the end of my earthly pilgrimage.

I’m not an optimist, but a realist. I know that the ally of evil within me will never finally die until I myself leave this world. God may drown this inner foe a million times, and a million times he will bob to the surface, a menacing smile on his face. I know that there will be times when nothing in life will seem more beautiful, more enticing, than that wallow in the mud. But I also know that I am not alone in my struggles. I have a wife who loves me unconditionally. I have friends, and a church, who embrace me as a brother in the faith. And I have a brother in God himself, who became a man, experienced the alluring power of temptation, and never wallowed in that mud, precisely so that he might lift me up when I fall, wash the mud off me, and stand ready to kick the devil where it hurts when he bids me follow my old self-destructive ways.

All of this is why I won’t be making New Year’s resolutions. I’ll be making new life resolutions, because unlearning evil and learning good is a lifelong quest.

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ChristAloneCoverIf you enjoyed this reflection, please take a moment to check out my new book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons. This is not a collection of feel-good, saccharine devotional material. It’s hard-hitting, Gospel-giving, Christ-focused writing that takes you to the cross of Jesus again and again as the only source of healing for us. Purchase your copy by clicking on CreateSpace or Amazon. And thank you!

InfantPriestfrontcoverThe poems and hymns in my book, The Infant Priest, give voice to the triumphs and tragedies of life in a broken world. Here there is praise of the crucified and risen Christ, dark lamentation of a penitent wrestling with despair, meditations upon the life of our Lord, thanksgiving for family, and much more. If you’d like to purchase a copy, you may do so at this website or on Amazon.com.  Thank you!

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11 thoughts on “Unlearning Evil: Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

  1. jeanluburich@yahoo.com on said:

    I really get a good start to my day when you have a Scroll. It always hits something within me. Please keep them coming. Jean

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Just wow! “…God may drown this inner foe a million times, and a million times he will bob to the surface, a menacing smile on his face…” I could write the rest of my life and not come up with a power-truth sentence like that. Thanks Chad.

  3. Excellent points Chad. Have learned them only too well myself.

  4. new perspective for me, but gosh…how true. A long obedience in the same direction….love that. That’s exactly how we have to approach it. Overcoming sin, weakness will never be a battle completely won here.,

  5. I like this post, it really resonates with me! It’s a constant battle, and one that won’t be finished til we die. And in a weird way, that brings me comfort! Knowing I’m not the only one constantly messing it up, ha.

  6. uhhhh….it’s probably presumptuous of me to list requests, but oh well (requests for 3 essays):

    1. Assuming I am an adopted son of God, not a swine, is it not indeed manly to raise the level of pleasure to an honorable calling? Is not all of that which is wonderfully human somehow raised, when we substitute (for example) the pleasure of learning for that muddy pleasure of baser inclinations and habits? I know you’re not suggesting the dynamic of pleasure be excluded from life.

    2. When I was 25 I had ideas about what my life would/should look like at age 40. I was so wrong. Then at age 40 I was still foolish enough to think I had a good idea of what my life at 60 would/should look like. Now 60, it’s nothing like I had envisioned. And yet, I have to say, in my ashes, there is that which lives (Wordsworth). Why do we persist under this illusion of “knowing”, when our experience in Christ suggest that we don’t know from where the wind comes. Bonheoffer nearing his end: “Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.” That….that….is more than enough?

    3. Who is Chad Bird when he is not his story?

    There will be absolutely no additional time in purgatory imposed if you disregard any or all of these requests. Always in sincere admiration….Kel

    • Thank you for the requests, Kel! I am always in search of new ideas on which to write. The first suggestion in particular interests me. As for the third, it would likely put the reader to sleep.

  7. Sharon Henry on said:

    This scroll is exactly what I needed to read today, January 1, 2015. Thank you.

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