If you’re struggling with new year’s resolutions, try fortitude
We have failed again. If you are anything like myself, we have been unsuccessful in upholding our New Year’s resolutions. Whether it is a New Year’s resolution or a mid-year’s resolution, man has a great propensity for failure when desiring to live a greater life. This is true even in the spiritual life, because we, too often, give into sloth.
When desiring to grow in in the spiritual life, we often desire to achieve the heights immediately and we become saddened when we do not achieve it. This “sadness in the face of some spiritual good which one has to achieve,” is sloth.
The remedy to sloth is the virtue of fortitude, “the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1808). Before we can achieve fortitude, we must understand some of its parts: longanimity and perseverance.
When pursuing something honorable in the spiritual life, there will often be sufferings. One of these sufferings is waiting. When man is not willing to bear this suffering, it is because he wants what he hopes for immediately. He must wait, though. This waiting tempts man to become saddened and slothful. Instead, man needs longanimity, which “is the virtue that moderates hope in that it bears upon a good that is a long way off.”
With longanimity, even though what is hoped for is a long way off, man knows that he will reach that end.
Instead of sorrow, sometimes man does not pursue what he hopes for because he fears the trials he must endure. Man needs perseverance, which “inclines a person to continue in the practice of the good despite the difficulties associated with the continuance of the action.” It “moderates the emotion of fear.” In pursuit of the good, man mostly fears failure. Fear can keep man from beginning the training it takes to run a 10K-run, but perseverance moderates that fear.
The virtue of fortitude calls for a battle plan to conquer the goal you are striving for. Part of that battle plan is being faithful to the smaller things. “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10-18). In breaking our big and more vague goal into smaller tasks, the goal seems closer and less scary. Instead of fearing the failure of being able to play guitar, learning how to play a chord is more achievable. As man masters smaller tasks, he moves on to the next task to master, and although the goal may have been far away, it seems much closer and less fearful.
This applies to the spiritual life as well. If you want to begin to pray for an hour, first schedule your day so you can be able to do so and commit to a time. If you notice something that prevents you from achieving that task, like finding yourself watching a plethora of YouTube videos and using up all free time, cut it out. To achieve these goals, and abandon our fears and sorrows, we must have a battle plan.
Our growth is not achievable without fortitude, and the fullness of fortitude is not achievable without God. “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Therefore, we must pray for the grace of this virtue and the grace to advance in the spiritual life. Do not fear or become saddened that you have already failed; everyone has. Rely on God to succeed instead of yourself.