Testimonies, not resolutions

Well, it’s over half way through the month. The fad of the new year resolution posts has now passed. That little pause gave me time to reflect on what follows. I’ve elected not to do “resolutions” this year, and possibly not ever in the future. Most resolutions fail, quickly and spectacularly. What I want are long term changes.

I’ve mentioned it before on here, but for about a year now I have been attending my local Quaker meeting, and it is my intention to apply for membership sometime next year. Quakers, at least in the UK, live by four main testimonies, which are the application of faith in practice. They are the closest things Quakers have to a creed.

The four main testimonies are Peace, Equality, Truth and Simplicity (and for those interested I’ve linked through to the Wikipedia articles about them).

So my “resolutions”, such as they are, are these four testimonies.

Peace is not just the absence of conflict. It is an active state to be worked for. Quakers seek to “take away the occassions for all war”. I am someone who is quick to anger. A focused anger can be a good thing, it can initiate change for the better. But unfocused rage can be destructive. My own anger has in the past been unfocused, turned inwards. I’m looking for peace within myself. And then in a wider sense, what do I actually do to contribute to peace in the world. Do I speak out against those things that cause conflict? Do I work to resolve those conflicts, or do I close my eyes and claim it is not my problem? Externally and internally, peace is something that requires as much, if not more work, than it takes to be in conflict.

Just as I can ask whether I close my eyes to causes of conflict, do I close my eyes to inequalities in our society? Gender, race, sexuality, social standing, nationality, political opinion. Rather than being judgmental, can I look beyond my own prejudices to the person, not the category? I am conscious that I am dismissive and offhand with a lot of people I come into contact with. They are equal to me, and I am equal to them, and that attitude should permeate all I do.

This is possibly the hardest one to speak about. I have struggled with truth in my life, and it has cost me dearly. The absence of truth has caused immeasurable pain to those I love, my family, my close friends. For Quakers, even dissemblance and white lies are unacceptable. I have rarely been completely honest in my life, so time to start being honest with myself, about myself, and in my dealings with others.

Honesty does not just mean telling the truth however. It is about integrity, about being true to yourself, in your words and actions. And so I can no longer shuffle along and deny my own wishes in exchange for a quiet life of not rocking the boat. I want to write. I want to paint. I want to be an artist. And so that aspect of my life has to be one of my highest priorities, because anything else is not inkeeping with my own true self.

Originally, simplicity was to do with manner of dress and speech, but now it has come to embrace such issues as environmentalism and good stewardship. Over a period of some months I have started to become less attached to “things”. I realise that I don’t need much, materially, to be happy, and even those things that I take, such as books, I am happy to pass on, rather than hoard. Simplicity to me is about only acquiring that which is essential, making do with what I have, and making choices that do not unduly burden the planet, or society. Reducing my waste, my consumption, and being more frugal in my choices cause an uncluttering that introduces a simplicity to life leaving me with more time.

As with so many other things, this all sounded so much better in my head, and perhaps I will regret posting it? But I want to put these things out there, to hold myself accountable for the things I believe, the way I want to live, and to speak honestly about things that are important to me.

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3 thoughts on “Testimonies, not resolutions”

  1. I hope you don’t regret posting this. It’s a wonderful way to start the new year, with concrete ideas about how you want to change for the better. And I relate to a lot of it. These are some of the things that attracted me to Buddhism when I first started looking into that philosophy.

  2. Like Jen, I hope you don’t come to regret at any point posting this. One of the hardest but most rewarding things any human being can do is to say what is their heart and their mind, and be witnessed saying it. It is an incredibly powerful process for change.

    I believe the four areas you have mentioned reflect the person you have always been – or the person with whom I came to know, write with, share all manner of things with and built a pretty amazing business venture with – the person who I have seen grow… even though at times it has felt like atrophication or catastrophication.

    All of these areas speak of a strong and committed social justice ethos – and that is something I have always admired in you – or that side I’ve seen of you – your committment to social justice issues.

    This seems to me a condensing of lots of things you’ve intuitively known for a long time… and I congratulate you on ‘putting it out there.’

    Life is a journey, an adventure and the capacity to be transparent, authentic and honest is perhaps the biggest challenge of all.

    It sounds very much to me like this coming year, encompassing these four elements, is your year of authenticity.

    And expect me to hold you accountable… there will be a pop quiz in 12 months time 🙂

  3. Being witnessed is one of the most powerful AUTHENTIC states you can experience. Living by the words in which you have expressed is only the next step – and no-one has said its any easer or harder to to either.

    You have posed some deeply intriguing questions, I understand aimed at yourself, but in the same space, gives the readers the opportunity to also explore those thoughts within their own lives.

    I know you won’t regret posting this. You have set a standard to which you have committed to live by = and this is to applauded amongst a society willing to accept vanilla indifference.

    In case you need a buddy to kick you, listen to you or walk with you – you know where I am.

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