Resoluting others


This is an old, odd story which is pretty much true.  I believe it has pertinence to many New Years resoluters*:


At a New Year’s Eve gathering, the conversations got around to resolutions about an hour before midnight.  It began when someone asked a fellow, “Have you made your New Year’s resolutions?”

“Naw, I haven’t,” the man answered.  “The ol’ lady ain’t told me what they are yet.”

The ensuing laughter was polite, but not robust.  The “ol’ lady” was the man’s wife.  She was fanatically religious, and her laborious, legalistic righteousness was well known in the community; but she was dedicated to the “betterment” of morally destitute unfortunates who sometimes got in her path.  She considered it her “ministry” to tell others of their failures.  This New Year’s Eve, she and her husband were at odds.  He was staying with a friend, which was the only reason he was present at the little watch-night event we were having.  The gathering was innocent enough, but to the woman in question, it was equal to any and every orgy, regardless of the caliber.

“Aw, that woman ought’a let go of herself,” said the beleaguered spouse.  “The very thought that somebody somewhere may be happy gnaws at her day and night.  For New Year’s, that woman ought’a resolve to loosen up some.”

Well—he said it first.  He opened the door, there was general agreement, and suggestions on what the man’s wife ought to do; but there was nothing said that helped.

“Her Daddy’s almost as bad as she is,” the man continued.  “He’s where she gets it from.  That old fool ought’a loosen up, too!  Maybe if he felt better, he’d be better.”

“He needs to be loosened from legalism?” someone asked.

“Yeah, legalism.  But the old man is chronically constipated, and I believe that might be what dictates his morals.  If he’d resolve to do something about that, and get loosened up, maybe he wouldn’t be so self-righteous.  Maybe if he’d eat different?”

Again, suggestions and advice (the cheapest current coin) were given, even encouraging resolutions for the woman to make and follow.  But the thoughts that were occurring to me were, (1) some people are so obsessed with religious legalism being the way you should live, they suffer a moral constipation that sooner or later explodes in moral diarrhea that is unpleasant for everyone; and, (2) in the long run, we really can’t make resolutions for other people.  They’re on their own.

I did like the observation one person made about legalism: “If you’re working for salvation, you’re working yourself to death.”  And of course, Christ’s instructions to “Get the beam out of your own eye before you worry about the speck in the other person’s,” made us a little cautious to judge the woman.  Her husband himself admitted, “I think she’s really crazy.  I mean, crazy!

Knowing the woman, some of us thought so as well.  But what could we do?  The husband handled the situation his own way a few weeks later.  He died.  The man had been in poor health, and his heart stopped beating, but the judgmental, angry character of his wife may have rushed things for him.  Regarding her, there’s no happy ending.  She only got worse.

So, thinking of that New Year’s Eve, I’m inclined to think I should make lots of resolutions.  Easy ones, though.  I don’t expect to change too drastically too soon.   


*In 2024, I resolve to invent words and use them how I want, with no regard to spelling, punctuation, grammar, or any other of those things that inhibit the transmission of a good story; or in my case, the transmission of a bad story.  I regret the aggravation this may cause some perfectionists, but really, I’m getting too old to worry, or even care, much about it.  With due respect to the under-appreciated Ambrose Bierce, God bless Will Rogers, Josh Billings and other writers who showed the way.  I would recommend this practice to the youth in our schools, except it isn’t necessary.  Many teachers have told me, the kids are already doing it.

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Craig Hall
Publisher, writer, photographer and teacher.