In this winter of financial, political and ethical discontent, our nation needs to make a slew of resolutions for the new year. If we had made them earlier, our transition into 2009 might not be so bleak.
- Be that as it may, it is essential that we learn from this trying time. Here’s a few ways to start:
- Don’t believe in “something for nothing.” We cannot continue to suspend skepticism and careful evaluation just because we want things to be a certain way. A shell game is always a shell game.
- Don’t trust the banker who hawked you a home equity loan. In their headlong pursuit of bonuses, many financial workers broke faith with their customers, sold us inappropriate products, gambled recklessly with our money, and now want us to bear the burden.
- Don’t shop on credit. This is the year to tear up credit cards, stop drawing down home equity loans, and stop using debt to finance our lifestyles. Even if it has short-term impact on retailers, we need to get our personal finances in order. A healthy consumer economy needs to be spending real money, not plastic.
- Don’t let your job define you. We grow up believing that career defines our worth and identity. Then, when we make necessary career changes, and especially when we have changes thrust upon us, we don’t just sputter financially. We descend into a pit of self-doubt and self-destructive behavior.
- Be generous even when you feel strapped. True community depends on people looking out for each other, especially when danger or distress looms. Any society can spend prosperity; a truly special society shares its food with the hungry.
- Learn to can vegetables and to make repairs. It isn’t about saving money, but about self-reliance and making-do. As we stagger into the second year of a worsening recession, it is important that we each feel capable and not rendered powerless by a complex world.
- Learn from failure. The greatest shortcoming among recent leaders hasn’t been their mistakes, bad guesses and faulty information, but their refusal to admit failure, to accept accountability for failure, and to learn from failure. We the people, in turn, need to stop pouncing on failure.
- Rethink how you raise your children. We seem to be engaged in an epic experiment in non-parenting, with too many children raised by minimum-wage employees, television, and over-involved parents living through their children. The results are sobering: children who cannot think for themselves, who have a high sense of entitlement, who plagiarize without compunction, and who are intellectually and motivationally unprepared to learn. Who, then, will make the hard decisions and do the hard work that freedom and economic vitality require?
- Help your faith community to grow by accepting changes. Now more than ever, our society needs faith communities that are able to heal at the margins, speak forcefully at the center, and help a distracted and floundering people find solid ground. Too many congregations are paralyzed by conflict and resistance to change.
- Spend more time at home with loved ones. Even if we could still afford the parallel lives that many families lead (and we can’t), this is the year to spend more time together. Living overly busy, career-centered and separate lives hasn’t worked.
- Stop living vicariously through a celebrity culture. We need to look into our mirrors and stop seeing what we wish we were and, instead, find peace in who we are.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of Just Wondering, Jesus, and the founder of the Church Wellness Project, www.churchwellness.com. His web site is www.morningwalkmedia.com.)