Over the past two years, I've had the privilege of writing a "New Year's" article in this space. Those musings tended to concentrate on the promise of the coming year. The hopes for the New Year, however, might come into sharper focus if we reflect a bit on our past year.
Reflection means "thinking about thinking." Some professionals regard reflection as the most complex thinking and consider the discipline of reflection as an essential discipline in personal growth, in leading to meaningful change, and for maturity.
One textbook observes that, "reflection is indicative of deep learning, and where teaching and learning activities such as reflection are missing... only surface learning can result."
Reflection can help us avoid superficiality. (In our current political environment, there appears to be a surfeit of superficial "thinking"!)
I suggest that we would do well to step back and spend some productive hours reflecting on the previous year. This time set aside will allow us to think more carefully about what assumptions we made, what content we accepted as "fact," and what framework we used to assess values, truth and conclusions.
There is plenty of "content" out there, all of which - as a body - constitutes the things we call or accept as "facts." The assumptions we make are conditioned largely by our experiences and what we perceive to be relevant facts.
What strikes me as much more intriguing is that last part - the framework against which we evaluate all the facts and assumptions.
Everyone has a framework; everyone has a "lens" - no exceptions! You might recall the phrase "seeing things through rose-colored glasses." One of the exercises in reflection is that of coming to grips with one's own interpretive lens.
A ubiquitous TV commercial asks, "What's in your wallet?" We might ask, "What's your framework?" That's not an idle question.
I speak from a Judeo-Christian commitment. In my Bible, in what we call the New Testament, it says, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) But faith requires action. The "action" required is to love (a verb, not a feeling) one another - at least that's what Jesus commanded (not merely recommended).
One ancient writer put it this way, "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
What's your "lens?" Does your faith constrain your politics and economics? How will your plans - the way in which you meet others, grapple with others' lives, and hope to shape the future - benefit from an honest evaluation of your assumptions?
Faith calls us to be compassionate, supportive, giving and constructive. If you are a person of faith, will your faith enrich your answers to these questions?
Would you like to have a great year this year? Why not reflect and respond? You might very well have a most Happy New Year!
Joe Crowley is the recently retired director of adult discipleship at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. email@example.com