Thursday, January 8, 2015


Rue - Herb of Grace
I've been thinking about resolutions--not about making any, but about resolutions themselves, and why we don't keep them. I should think that the most important foundation for keeping resolutions is that we are resolute, that we have set our hand to the plow and aren't looking back, that we are single-minded. Elizabeth Goudge defines this single-mindedness in her novel, Herb of Grace,
"But I've always thought of single-mindedness as a sort of concentration," said Sally. 
 "Yes. Contraction. Everything gathered in for the giving of yourself. The whole of you. Nothing kept back. No reservations. No loopholes of escape. Like a diver taking the plunge or a man banging the door shut behind him that locks itself so that he can't go back."
"You couldn't do that without repentance," said Sally thoughtfully. "I see that. You'd have to humble yourself before you could let go like that. Pride can't let go...." 
After a while, I started thinking about the etymology of the word resolute, because it's pretty obvious that it comes from the same root as solution. So I found that it comes from the Latin solvere which means to loosen, free up, unbind, melt. For anyone who has studied Greek, it's related to that most regular of Greek verbs λύω.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says:
resolute (adj.) Look up resolute at early 15c., "dissolved, of loose structure," also "morally lax," from Latin resolutus, past participle of resolvere "untie, unfasten, loose, loosen" (see resolution). Meaning "determined, decided, absolute, final" is from c.1500, especially in resolute answer, a phrase "common in 16th c." [OED]. From 1530s of persons. The notion is of "breaking (something) into parts" as the way to arrive at the truth of it and thus make the final determination (compare resolution). Related: Resolutely; resoluteness.
So after originally signifying looseness, it is now used to mean the opposite, something that is absolutely firm.

I particularly like the notion of breaking something into parts as the way to arrive at the truth of it and thus make the final determination, because it gives us a new way of looking at resolutions. We don't just decide to try again to do the thing which we could never before accomplish. We don't join Weight Watchers or the gym for the 20th time, or invest in nicotine patches or swear to limit our time online. We look--hopefully we prayerfully look--at why all those things have never worked. We try to find the problem behind the problem, to look at it through the lens of repentance and humility, and then we can close those loopholes of escape effectively.


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