Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Meeting the New Year

By Tim Atkins

When hardships come into your life it breaks you for a while, but when it is done with you evolve into a new person.
—Madalsa Sharma

New Year’s is my favorite winter holiday. Since 2015, I’ve engaged in a ritual of reflection and intention that’s dear to me: choosing a word to serve as my grounding for the upcoming year.

I begin this practice by reflecting on my words of prior years: Joy. Embrace. Explore. Delight. Authenticity. Roots. Blossom. Over time, my memories become infused with the spirit and the vibe of the word I chose for that year. For example, last year I chose blossom as my word for 2022—and over the past year I can recall thinking of how I was blossoming into a more fully realized version of myself.

The next part of my ritual involves taking stock of different threads happening in my life, and thinking about my hopes for the upcoming year. I narrow them down into one feeling, and try to put a word to that feeling.

One of the things most on my mind—and something I love most about Unitarian Universalism—is our denominational commitment to periodically assessing our beliefs and discerning whether they should evolve. Right now we’re in the midst of a bylaw-mandated process for determining if we want to make any changes to Article II, commonly known as the Principles and Sources. I’m proud to belong to a living religious tradition that embraces evolution, both scientifically and spiritually.

But deeply personal elements inform my ritual, too. In December, my sole surviving grandparent—my maternal grandmother—passed away. She was the last member of that generation in my family, and with her passing I’ve matured—no, evolved—to a new stage of life. It feels right for me to meditate on evolution this upcoming year.

Evolve is clearly my word for 2023. Change can be scary. But evolution is exciting. How am I going to evolve to meet the challenges of this new era we live in?

What’s the word you want to reflect on during the upcoming year? What’s the one word you want to remember your next year by?

The dawning of a new year is the dawning of a new chance: a chance to right the wrongs we know we committed; to recommit to the life we choose to live; to reflect. It’s a chance to start the next chapter in our story.

Prayer

Give us wisdom as we reflect on our truths and our true intentions. Give us strength as we examine our lives with honesty and with hope. Give us courage as we dare to dream.