A Word For A New Year: Charity

Plus haut
Plus haut (Photo credit: iko)

I love the idea of celebrating New Years, but in reality the idea’s not even on the table anymore. Last night we went to bed at 10:30 and called it an hour late…because by eleven Nicholas woke up with a nightmare, and when the fireworks hit at midnight Michael woke up scared. And then there were the “Happy New Year!” text messages beeping on Christian’s phone. (Face palm.)

Well, in any case, it’s just ahead of six a.m. on New Years Day, 2013, and here I sit, reflecting forward. For the last few Januaries many of my bloggy friends have been choosing a word for the year, a word to direct their spiritual focus for the coming months. I’ve never participated before, but there’s been a word rattling around in my head for the last several weeks, consistently enough for me to recognize the Spirit at work. The word is charity.

Charity is a funny word. My whole life I’ve associated it with giving money to those in need, but in Scriptural terms it’s used interchangeably with “love.” It makes sense; love is a series of choices and actions, so it should naturally bear itself out in giving.

But there’s still another definition. For me, charity is a call to change my heart.

I’ve fussed often enough on this blog about the way we talk to each other in the modern world: the vitriol, the rigid mindset that causes us to dig in at the extremes of any political, philosophical or religious disagreement. A mindset in which we make assumptions about others’ thoughts and motivations and pass snap judgment based upon assumptions, sound bites and half-truths, while simultaneously refusing to recognize our own self-righteousness in doing so. It’s a state of mind and heart that shreds others’ human dignity, and as such it stands contrary to what we believe as Christians.

But you know, what a person focuses on sheds a great deal of light on their own mindset. I’ve said it a lot recently: religious writing is like one ongoing examination of conscience. And I’m at least as guilty of these sins as anyone I call to task for them. Charity for me this year means changing my internal monologue from judgment to acceptance. It means giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst about their beliefs, motivations and actions. It is an exercise in finding Christ in others, and in myself.

And it’s probably the hardest task I’ve ever set myself for a new year.

(Others are sharing their word-of-the-year here.)