To honor Dr. King, pediatricians offer four tips to teach kindness to kids

To honor Dr. King, pediatricians offer four tips to teach kindness to kids

Children are listening.

During the election, messages of hate, fear and intolerance were propagated across different media and into communities. And the messages continue. While parents view and listen to these ever-present messages, alongside them are their children, hearing these same messages through a lens ill-equipped to discern the implications of negative stereotypes and incorrect portrayals.

Throughout the election, children heard such things as Mexican immigrants are “rapists” and are “bringing drugs…bringing crime” and that African-Americans are “thugs” and “living in hell.”

These messages, no matter their voice, were designed and intended to target adults. As pediatricians, we’re now seeing, however, that children were listening and they are responding in ways we might not have anticipated.

As parents, caretakers and citizens, we have the power to turn this tide. And as we approach the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday, now is the time to explore ways to teach children to communicate with love and respect.

Stop the hate and offer love

One response to the messages children hear is to incite more hate. In April 2016, a now well-cited survey of 2,000 teachers conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Program found that more than half of respondents reported seeing an increase in uncivil discourse in their schools. This, along with other findings from the survey, was used to coin “The Trump Effect,” a term denoting the hateful acts performed by children and adults alike.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Aug. 28, 1963.
Aug. 28, 1963/ AP

The change we’ve seen in children’s behavior may be happening for the same reason they react to the violence they see in media. Prior research has shown that children exposed to media violence have higher levels of violent behaviors, hostility and that they are more desensitized to violence, including a lower likelihood of intervening in an ongoing fight and less sympathy for the victims of violence. Media violence itself can instill fear in the young viewers that may be persistent for years.

Hate and intolerance touted in the media is no different. As is their nature developmentally, children adopt what they hear as truth, adapting it to their lives, and in many cases across the nation, acting upon it.

Another response can be love. Recently, a Facebook group was started by a Seattle-based mom, encouraging children to write letters to the president-elect explaining the importance of being kind. To date, 10,000 children have joined, from across the country, writing how kindness should guide the future administration. To quote one sixth grade child, “Please show kindness to people, no matter their race, religion, beliefs, or most importantly, who they are as a person.”

This dichotomy of responses begs the questions: Why are children uniquely positioned to respond to messages of hate strongly, and how do parents guide their children to respond with love over hate?

Developmental stages: A lens for media messages

Children’s actions may depend heavily on their developmental stage. Older teenagers are generally better able to discern the meaning and implications of the strong emotions conveyed in the media, but younger children often are unable to decode them.

Emotions like hate, fear and intolerance are complex. Younger children are not equipped to understand the context and ramifications associated with these complex emotions, especially when seen in an abstract form, such as media. In addition, we know that young children are not developmentally able to discern paralanguage, the complex, emotional undertones of speech. Without these underpinnings, it’s nearly impossible to understand when messages are rooted in sarcasm or are based on fallacious assumptions.

Parents fear loss of control

Older children may be able to think more critically about what they hear, but may have a hard time deciding what they should believe. Children who identify as a part of a minority group based on their race or ethnicity, nativity status, sexual orientation or ability status may also internalize the messages, which can lead to increased distress. This distress may be associated with concerning behaviors such as withdrawal, anger, anxiety and conduct problems.

In 2015, over 65 percent of Americans had a smartphone and over 95 percent of homes had a television. In 2016 The American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of over 66,000 pediatricians, revised its policy statement to encourage the use of these types of media for children as young as 18 months in a structured way to facilitate learning.

However, many families feel conflicted on how to select for beneficial content, while filtering out the harmful content, such as stories that highlight hate and intolerance. A study published in the November issue of Annals of Family Medicine found caregivers felt they had less and less control over the content their children viewed in today’s age of rapidly evolving technologies.

This effect was seen increasingly in families with lower socioeconomic status and lower income. These caregivers wanted their children to be exposed to the advantageous aspects of technology, but worried about how to set limits and make the right choices for their children.

As parents, we know it is hard to totally shield our children from the media, so how do we silence the noise of hate and usher our children toward actions of love and respect?

Our path forward

The strongest change you can make is in your own home.

Here are four ways you can scaffold the messages our children hear, providing them with context and skills beyond their developmental stages to filter and respond to the hate and intolerance seen in the media.

  1. Use your resources: There are many web-based tools that parents can turn to, including KidsHealth.org’s “Teaching Your Child Tolerance” and Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Teaching Tolerance” toolkit. Both of these sites include developmentally appropriate stories and games to discuss racial and cultural differences with your child.
  2. Talk to your child about responding with kindness: Even offhand statements can be felt as hateful to others. Creating a culture of kindness in your home can have ripple effects. Remember, tolerance does not mean tolerating hateful behavior. It means everyone deserves to be respected and should respect others. For example, if your child hears someone saying something intolerant, encourage them to speak up against it. However, instead of saying, “I think people who use racist and sexist language are stupid,” encourage them to demonstrate kindness: “I think it’s cool when we treat everyone with respect.”
  3. Set a strong example and explain it to your child: While children pick up on everything we do, it’s even better to tell them what you’re doing. Become active in your community, volunteer locally, nationally or globally. Take your child along and get them involved. Even easier, show them how you respond to intolerant acts and explain to them why.
  4. Teach your children to feel good about themselves and love their own culture: We know that children who struggle with self-esteem can respond by bullying others. Conversely, kids with higher self-esteem may bolster others around them. Emphasize your child’s own strengths and encourage them to explore their interests. Teach them about their own cultural background and instill a sense of cultural pride in your family. Being aware of the language we use and being intentional about our attitudes are skills child carry with them outside their home.

And remember, children are listening. While we may not be able to change the messages in the media, we can change how our children respond to them, and that change starts with you.The Conversation

Nia Heard-Garris, Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, Clinical Lecturer, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, University of Michigan Medical School, University of Michigan and Danielle Erkoboni, National Clinician Scholar and General Pediatrician, University of Pennsylvania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Congo’s Catholic church says data show clear election winner

Congo’s Catholic church says data show clear election winner

 

The Catholic church in Congo announced Thursday its data show a clear winner in Sunday’s presidential election, and it called on the electoral commission to publish the true results in “respect of truth and justice.”

The church, a powerful voice in the heavily Catholic nation, deployed some 40,000 electoral observers but could not say who the clear winner appeared to be, as Congo’s electoral regulations forbid anyone but the electoral commission to announce results.

Observers have reported multiple irregularities as the vast, mineral-rich Central African country voted for a successor to departing President Joseph Kabila. This could be its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The ruling party loyalist whom Kabila put forward as his preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, already has said he expected to win, while polling before the election had top opposition candidate Martin Fayulu ahead.

The electoral commission’s president said it had collected results from about 20 percent of polling stations, while some Congolese expressed doubt that the first results would be released on Sunday as expected.

“We are working hard to announce them as soon as possible,” Corneille Nangaa said.

The internet remained blocked in the country in an apparent attempt by the government to calm speculation about the results.

The United States urged Congo to release accurate results and restore internet access, warning that those who undermine the democratic process could face U.S. sanctions. The State Department noted the reported troubles on election day and said results should be compiled transparently, with observers present, so that the votes of millions of people “were not cast in vain.”

The internet outage has hampered the election observers’ work. No Western election observers were invited to watch the vote, which was meant to occur in late 2016, after Congo’s government was annoyed at international pressure amid concerns that Kabila was trying to stay in power.

“The decision to cut internet and text messages hampered the transmission of data from the field,” said Cyrille Ebotoko, technical supervisor of the Catholic church’s observer mission. “It delayed our work by three days and considerably increased the cost since everything had to be done by phone.”

Thirty-eight percent of the some 40,000 polling stations the mission observed were still missing electoral materials more than three hours after polls opened on Sunday, the mission said. And 23 percent of its observers’ reports noted that voting had to be suspended at some point because of troubles with voting machines.

Overall, however, the irregularities did not considerably impact the voting, said Father Donatien Nshole, secretary-general of the church organization known as CENCO.

Shadary, a former interior minister, is under European Union sanctions for a crackdown on Congolese who protested the delayed election. Kabila, blocked from serving three consecutive terms, has hinted he’ll run again in 2023, leading the opposition to suspect he’ll wield power behind the scenes until then to protect his vast wealth.

The other leading candidates were Fayulu, a businessman and lawmaker in Kinshasa, and Felix Tshisekedi, son of late opposition icon Etienne and head of Congo’s most prominent opposition party.

Some 1 million of Congo’s 40 million registered voters were barred from Sunday’s election at the last minute as the electoral commission blamed a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the east. Affected people in Beni and Butembo cities protested as some observers warned that not allowing them to vote undermined the credibility of the election.

The cities’ residents can vote in March, months after Congo’s new president is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 18.

Election day was largely calm. Life in the capital, Kinshasa, had returned to near-normal on Thursday, though some residents expressed frustration at the internet outage.

“We are waiting and trying to adapt, searching for places where we can still find network because we need it to work,” businessman Paul Odimba said. “I can understand the government’s decision because fake news was spread indeed, but some of us that are impacted are able to make the difference between fake and real news.”

Let the Word Speak

Let the Word Speak


The art of spoken word poetry is one of the most compelling and least understood of the contemporary verbal arts. It’s similar, in certain ways, to acting, public speaking, preaching, and even stand-up comedy. Like the beat poets of the 1960s and 1970s, and the slam poets of the 1990s, spoken word artists have evolved with the times. Their oratorical creations borrow and remix the dominant forms of the day, which is why the art form that spoken word most resembles and intermingles with is hip-hop music.

And yet, spoken word artistry is still quite distinct from hip-hop.

From the beginning, hip-hop has been about taking forceful poetic rhymes and amplifying them with energetic beats and street-authentic rhythms—the “yes, yes y’all” with the “boom boom bip.”

But in spoken word, the power is in the words themselves. As they are delivered with an intensity so potent, they can’t be locked into musical bars. Great spoken word artists use an internal sense of rhythm to arrange the literal and the literary into sentences as stanzas, using sharp timing, tonal contrast, and vivid imagery. And like great thespians, preachers, and emcees, spoken word artists transmit those words with the power of their voice to maximize meaning and audience comprehension.

Some even compare the techniques used in spoken word to those used in rap. In fact, many of the best spoken word artists have the same kind of swaggering dynamism common to great rappers.

And some artists switch between the two genres. Jason Perry, Jackie Hill Perry, and Ezekiel Azonwu are leading the charge in Christ-centered spoken word artistry, but they’re also gifted rappers. Rather than opposites, the two art forms complement each other.

Azonwu made it onto the national radar after several of his spoken word videos went viral on the Passion 4 Christ Movement YouTube channel. But his entry into the form started with rap. During high school, he participated in freestyle rap battles on the topic of guns and violence. After becoming a follower of Christ in college, he changed his subject matter, keeping the same aggressive approach.

But eventually, something changed.

“I stopped rapping with beats because I hated that people would bang out to the music and wouldn’t hear what I was saying,” he said in an interview with David Daniels of Rapzilla.com.

When a friend introduced him to the idea of sharing the Gospel through spoken word poetry, he tried it, and it left an impression.

“It was crazy,” Azonwu said. “It was just my testimony. I didn’t really need swag to do it. I didn’t need a beat to do it. And finally, for the first time in life, people were able to hear and relate to my words.”

The first verse in the book of John confirms an essential element of the biblical creation account: “In the beginning the Word already existed” (from John 1:1, NLT). The ultimate expression of creative declaration is the Triune God, speaking the very world into existence. And as human beings made in God’s image, we bear both the privilege and the responsibility to do something similar—to use words as a way of expressing our ideals.

Nowhere is this dynamic more clearly brought to life than in spoken word artistry.

It’s this emphasis on the word—and on the Word, the author of all truth—that makes spoken word a compelling alternative to hip-hop in the articulation of a Christian point of view. Thus, in the spirit of iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17), here are several things to consider if you want to try your hand at spoken word poetry.

And who knows? These tips could also make you a better rapper, too.

Great spoken word artists use more literary tools than simple rhyming. Assonance and alliteration; similes and metaphors; repetition and parallel phrasing; personification; theme and variation; strategic contrast; even onomatopoeia. Get to know these literary devices, what they mean, and how they work. Once you do, find examples in popular spoken word pieces and recognize how they make the poems more effective. Or even better, find these literary and poetic devices in the Bible itself. For example, in the book of Proverbs when Solomon describes wisdom as a lady, that’s personification. When the Apostle Paul calls the church “the body of Christ,” that’s a metaphor.

Listen for a sense of spoken rhythm and cadence. Great preachers do it. So do great poets, great rappers, and great actors. Find the text of a well-known poem, song, or sermon and experiment with different ways of saying the same words, emphasizing different words, stretching out and shortening vowel sounds, sharpening or slurring your consonants.

Veteran screenwriter Aaron Sorkin said this about dialogue, but it applies to spoken word as well.

“Remember that when you are doing this—what you’re writing is not meant to be read. It is meant to be performed. So anytime words are spoken out loud for the sake of performance, they have now all the same rules that apply to music. So it needs to sound like something.”

And finally…

No one can tell your story like you. Your story may have elements in common with other stories, but there is no story exactly like yours. Don’t run from your story, but own it. Take time to dig into it. See a counselor, therapist or if those aren’t options, consult your pastor. If you can fully inhabit your own skin and take the time to tell your story with all of the authenticity, pathos, and technique that it deserves, you’ll be able to make a connection with an audience, and that’s what all spoken word artists try to do.

So take a chance. Try immersing yourself in the power of spoken word poetry—whether as a listener, viewer, or performer. It’s time to let the Word speak.

End-of-Life Decisions an Act of Justice

End-of-Life Decisions an Act of Justice

Not long ago, I was sitting at the bedside of my mother as she lay in a hospital bed in the critical care unit on a ventilator. With a tube in her throat, her voice was silenced. We had no idea who she wanted to make decisions for her. We didn’t know her wishes should she experience a decline — we didn’t even know if she wanted to be intubated in the first place. In this case, her right to make decisions about her healthcare was not stripped of her but rather was not exercised.

As a justice-seeker and end-of-life spiritual care practitioner, I often bring up advanced care planning to my family’s dismay. My mother had been reluctant to have any conversation about it, shrugging me off, quipping, “Just make sure they don’t put any makeup on me in the casket.” Thank God, she has recovered and is doing well, but the reality is that she, like many African-Americans, do not participate in advanced care planning and making end-of-life decisions.

Poet and social activist Langston Hughes wrote, “There is no color line in death.” Yet, when it comes to advanced care planning and end-of-life care, the color line is obvious. African-Americans disproportionately engage in advance care planning and utilize hospice and palliative care at lower rates than whites, thus affecting the quality of life as death approaches. The reasons are myriad: cultural factors, economic concerns, negative perceptions of hospice and palliative care, and mistrust of physicians and the healthcare system. African-Americans have a strained relationship with the healthcare industry rooted in historical facts such as the exploitation of Black bodies for medical research throughout American history, such as the Tuskegee experiment, a decades-long “study” on African-American men with syphilis performed without informed consent and leaving the disease untreated, even after an effective cure had been found. Also, embedded in this lack of advance care planning and underutilization of hospice and palliative care is the theological understanding that pain and suffering are part of God’s plan for our lives. There are many people I have encountered in my work in hospice and in church ministry that bear unnecessary suffering, whether physical pain or emotional burdens because they believe that is their cross to bear. This is not solely my experience, but a widely held belief that hinders patients from managing their pain and families from receiving the additional services that would ease their burden of care.

Besides, we’re living our best lives and who has time to plan for healthcare crisis or think about death?

But what if living our best lives means considering healthcare decisions and end-of-life planning? What if making healthcare decisions is not merely a matter of physical health, but a matter of justice? In addition to racial, gender, economic, and educational equity, quality healthcare is a justice concern. And I would argue, given my particular role as a hospice chaplain providing spiritual care and emotional support to patients and families during end-of-life, that advanced care planning and comprehensive end-of-life care are part of quality healthcare. In the National Hospice and Palliative Care “Outreach to African Americans Guide,” Dr. Richard Payne, Professor of Medicine and Divinity at the Duke Institute of End of Life Care wrote, “Hospice offers the best hope not to be alone, to be with family, to have pain controlled, and to be connected to your faith and beliefs. We are as entitled as anyone else to have these hopes fulfilled.”

If Black lives matter, and they do, then one way we proclaim that we matter is by exercising agency in our healthcare, including making decisions about who can speak for us when we are unable, whether or not we want aggressive treatment such as resuscitation and intubation, and how we want to be treated at the end of life. Given the historical exploitation of Black bodies in medical research—often carried out without our consent or after death—raising our voices and making our own decisions related to healthcare is an act of resistance, declaring our dignity and worth in a country where our personhood is devalued a daily basis.

I hear you. People of a certain age should engage in those conversations and make their healthcare decisions known. But I’m young, I’m healthy, and I’m living my best life. I have plenty of time before I have to think about advanced care planning.

Just as there is no color line in death, there is also no age line. Crisis, disease, terminal illness, and death can come at any age—including in your twenties and thirties. And while healthcare decisions can be made at any time, the best time to make healthcare decisions is during times of calm, clarity of mind, and relatively good health.

Not sure where to start? Here are some practical suggestions:

  1. Consider: Reflect upon what quality of life and a good death means for you. Think about the person who would best speak for you in the event you cannot make decisions for yourself.
  2. Voice: Use one or more of the many tools available (living will, power of attorney, advance directive, or the Five Wishes document) to put your healthcare decisions on paper. If you have a chronic health issue, consider completing a Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) with your physician. When choosing a healthcare proxy, but sure to dialogue with them about your wishes and their ability to carry them out.
  3. Engage: Share your decisions with your loved ones and friends and encourage them to have the conversation and make their choices known. Move the discussion beyond your immediate circle to your congregation and community. As a matter of justice, the conversation on advanced care planning should be had far and wide.
  4. Revisit: Healthcare decisions will evolve as we do. It is important to note that these are not static documents, but that they should be revisited and revised as our lives and perspectives change. A general rule of thumb would be to revisit the document every ten years and with major life changes (marriage, children, the onset of disease, etc.).

Making healthcare decisions is not only wise for personal quality of life, but it also bears witness to the power of agency, advocacy, and the humanity of African-Americans. For some, it may seem like just a document, but for African-Americans, it is an act of resistance, and an act of freedom, and an act of justice.

For more information, visit theconversationproject.org.

Jay-Z’s $200-million clothing battle could be game changer for black lawyers

Jay-Z’s $200-million clothing battle could be game changer for black lawyers

Millionaire rapper Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z, has proved yet again why he is larger than life. He is embroiled in a contractual dispute over the US$204m (£159m) sale of his clothing brand to Iconix Brand Group a decade ago.

In a twist that has now thrown the world of arbitration into a frenzy, Jay-Z recently won a temporary decision from a New York court to halt the process on the grounds there aren’t enough black arbitrators to settle it fairly within the terms of the contract. If this argument ultimately carries the day, it will require a severe reorganization and opening up of the arbitration profession, one of the most cliquish corners of the legal business – and not just in America, but around the world.

Like many business contracts, the original Jay-Z/Iconix deal agreed that any disputes would be settled by a commercial arbitration process. The contract stipulated that the parties would use arbitrators provided by the American Arbitration Association (AAA).

But as part of a dispute over intellectual property rights, Jay-Z’s lawyers are arguing that the arbitration clause is invalid because they could not “identify a single African-American arbitrator on the ‘Large and Complex Cases’ roster” provided by the association. Even when the AAA went through its expanded list of 200 potential arbitrators, it could only identify three African-Americans – one of whom was ineligible to come on board because they work for the law firm representing Iconix.

Jay-Z’s lawyers argued before the New York Supreme Court that white arbitrators exhibit “unconscious bias” towards black defendants; and that the AAA’s lack of racial diversity consequently “deprives litigants of color of a meaningful opportunity to have their claims heard by a panel of arbitrators reflecting their backgrounds and life experience”. The procedure, they went on, “deprives black litigants … of the equal protection of the laws, equal access to public accommodations, and mislead consumers into believing that they will receive a fair and impartial adjudication”.

The New York Supreme Court’s decision to grant a stay on the back of these arguments is unprecedented and will become legendary within the profession. And unlike traditional courts, where judges are usually only bound to follow decisions within the same jurisdiction, arbitration is essentially one global system. If New York decides that these are the rules, the effects will be felt around the world.

The exclusion problem

What the case has highlighted is that arbitrators in the US, but also in most Western societies, are disproportionately white, male and aged. The same is true of courts, but more is arguably expected from arbitrators as the field of recruitment is wider – with less emphasis on legal training and professional qualifications.

This situation is hardly surprising given that big law firms are the incubation beds for commercial arbitrators. The chances of being appointed by businesses to settle highly complex matters like Jay-Z’s case increase exponentially if the arbitrator works in the so-called golden circle of law firms and this is where the shortage begins.

Not what enough lawyers look like.
BCFC

Don’t tell anyone this, but the law firm representing Jay-Z, Quinn Emanuel, itself has a big diversity deficit at partner level, with only three African-American partners listed in a list of almost 300. Even if the firm were allowed to supply black arbitrators to handle Jay-Z’s case itself, it wouldn’t be able to. If black partners are this scarce, you might as well look for black unicorns to fill arbitration panels.

The shortage is just as problematic in complex international arbitrations. In 2013, around a third of the parties to the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration were from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Since then, just 15% of appointees were from those regions. Meanwhile, appointments of African arbitrators at the Permanent Court of Arbitration and black judges at the World Court are proportionately very low.

There are few renowned non-white arbitrators in international petroleum negotiation – despite the fact that nearly 60% of petroleum is produced outside Europe and North America. There are even fewer developing-world experts in international boundary disputes. Arguably developing countries are constantly shortchanged in international justice as a result.

What to do

How do we address these issues? We could throw the burden back on the likes of Jay-Z by saying he should have fought for diversity in arbitrators at the drafting stage of his sales contract. That may well be what the court ultimately does in his case, but what then?

It is generally accepted that contractual specifications about arbitration cannot violate national laws. These would include race discrimination laws, though the limits of this were shown in a relatively recent UK judgment, Jivraj v Hashwani (2011). Here, the contract stipulated that arbitrators had to be respected Muslim members of the Ismaili community. When challenged as racial discrimination, the Supreme Court decided that the relevant UK laws only applied to employees and not to arbitrators because they were not employees.

But if that left the likes of Jay-Z free to push for African-American arbitrators as part of business contracts, there is still the problem of a general dearth of them. If he does ultimately lose his case in New York, it will still have highlighted this gap in the market. Perhaps in future, black dealmakers will insist on any arbitration taking place somewhere with more black arbitrators.

The bottom line is that we need recruitment programmes to encourage black arbitrators now and to recognize that those in place should be more frequently offered for appointments so that they are experienced enough to handle large complex cases. And to fix the current shortage, we also have to address the diversity issues in the legal profession as a whole.

Too often at present, we’re kidding ourselves. The American Arbitration Association has a program to mentor diverse young arbitrators and promises lists of arbitrators of at least 20% diversity, for example. But it is only able to offer this proportion by lumping together all diversity including gender, age, and ethnic background – and 20% is hardly a great achievement anyway. If demand for more black representation rises and centers for arbitration like New York and London don’t offer enough people, new rivals may well step up to the plate.The Conversation

Gbenga Oduntan, Reader (Associate Professor) in International Commercial Law, University of Kent

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New Year, New You: The Only Resolutions that Matter

New Year, New You: The Only Resolutions that Matter

A desire for self-improvement and positive change is the very reason why New Year’s has long been my favorite holiday. It’s been the time of year when I’ve been most willing and ready to embrace change. It’s a time when I pause to reflect on my growth and accomplishments to date—whether personal or professional—and then readily consider any areas that might require some adjustments. It’s during this time when I make those required adjustments plain by translating them into a list of resolutions so that, come January 1st, I can become the “new me.”

But, I’ve never gotten around to achieving all of my resolutions—most people don’t. In fact, studies show that only 8% of those who make New Year’s resolutions go on to achieve them.

That’s pretty disappointing.

But the good news is there is the Good News.

I finally began to study God’s Word and found that, as a Christian, I don’t have to wait until a new year to become the “new me” or even an “improved me,” and I certainly don’t have to tackle these changes on my own. The Word has matured me so much spiritually, and that has translated to my personal and professional growth this past year.

Here are three biblical resolutions that will help you, too, become the “new you” in the New Year:

In all your getting, get understanding.

I used to resolve to read more books or master a new language to become more cultured and learned, which isn’t a terrible goal. But meanwhile, I didn’t know much about the God to whom I claimed to devote my entire life.

There is no knowledge any of us can obtain that is more valuable than the knowledge of God. Knowing His will, voice, character, purposes, and promises give us the wisdom we need to navigate this life, and it girds our spirit to commune with Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

This wisdom also spills into our familial and romantic relationships and leads us toward wiser financial, career and business decisions. The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord, and knowledge of Him is understanding (Proverbs 9:10). So, in all our getting, we should certainly resolve to get that!

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

We might set out in search of a new career or even our life’s purpose in the new year. However, the benefit of first seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is that you begin to learn that you already have purpose (to glorify God), a destiny (to abide with God in eternity as an heir with Christ), and a job (to make disciples).

Our inherent gifts and talents then indicate how we might best carry out this purpose. From there, we begin to operate in God’s perfect will for our lives. And by being in God’s will, any material resources or people we might need to help us fulfill that purpose will come—and we are guaranteed access to them through prayer (1 John 5:14–15).

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

One year I resolved to smile more, but I still lacked genuine joy and I continued to battle attitude problems, depression, and other sins of the flesh. But the Word of God gives us a renewed mind, which is the mind of Christ.

Through Him we have a new perspective on this life because in Him we find light, love, and truth. And knowing the truth sets us free (John 8:31). It is not enough to read self-help or leadership books for tips and tricks to tackle certain aspects of life. Some might offer helpful treatment. But healing is found in Jesus Christ.

There is so much transformative power in the pages of God’s Word. As you prayerfully study it, the Holy Spirit will do a work in you that puts your New Year’s list of “to- dos” to shame. Making resolutions is great! But filtering those resolutions through the Lord is profitable. This is the only way we will enjoy change that is lasting and accomplish goals that will matter this year and for years to come.