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Make 2021 a transformational year

Many are fearful of the future and there is a high level of instability and insecurity. We do not know where the pandemic will take us. However, do you realize what is truly our greatest problem? It is not the pandemic. It is selfishness.

The stench of selfishness is raising high above the aroma of sensible living and healthy relationships. Too many people have their own agendas and will let nothing get in their way, even if it causes pain to others. In reality, if great care and effort are not taken, marriages, families, and interpersonal relationships will suffer the most in this coming year. We must not let this happen. The strength of any family, community, institution, or country, is not just its financial, intellectual, or industrial resources. It is meaningful, long-lasting, reciprocal, and unselfish loving relationships.

What are your plans for the coming year? What will be most important to you? I believe that everyone should have highest on their priority list the establishment and maintenance of healthy, meaningful, and loving relationships. This focus must be in the home, church, schools, community, businesses, and government.

Let every spouse make it his or her main focus to have a warm, mutually supportive romantic relationship with each other. Let all parents, single or married, make it their focus to have a loving, dynamic, and understanding relationship with their children. Let every church, community, school and corporate leader make it their focus to have a people-centered approach to leadership. Let every politician focus on serving rather than being served by the people.

Denying self and focusing on others is not always easy. Here is the paradox. You cannot be selfless in a healthy way unless you are selfish in a healthy way. You do need to take care of yourself so you can take care of others. You do need to love yourself in order to develop healthy loving relationships. There needs to be a healthy balance between self-love and selflessness.

People who only think of themselves and seldom others, are not happy. They might be wounded or troubled individuals. However, people who take care of themselves as well and others can do it without a guilt trip. They can easily forfeit a special treat for themselves because they already know they are valuable. At times they might be able to go with less to allow someone to have more because they already know their own value.

It feels good to pat yourself on the shoulder or to take care of your needs. That is important. However, when that self-care obliterates the needs of others around you, it becomes poisonous. If we continue to focus on self in unhealthy ways, we will have a greater increase in crime, marital dissolutions, and dysfunctional relationships. Even the pandemic will continue to spread. We will have less respect for government leaders. More spouses will walk out on each other. The juvenile halls of correction will become more crowded. The prison walls will “scream even louder” with the pains of hurting inmates. More of our streets will resonate with the loud gun fires of angry thugs and drug-induced, spaced-out, schizophrenic personalities. Let us stop being selfish this new year. Healthy unselfishness is transformational.

The pandemic offers us a good example of how we can be selfish and selfless in health ways. When we wear a mask in public places, keep physically distant from people we do not live with, and wash hands often, we are taking care of ourselves in order to take care of others. Let’s do our best to make this coming year transformational. Let our communities and country be transformed into a place of beauty, harmony, and peace – but it must start with you.

Here a few things we can all do to make this coming year transformational in our personal lives and in the country.

• Follow the emergency orders intentionally.

• Say something nice to someone each day.

• Be courteous and kind to all you come in contact with.

• Think before responding.

• Visit a less fortunate or sick individual at least once a month. It can be in the hospital, the community, or the prison. (Adhering to the emergency orders.)

• Write a letter to at least two persons who need encouragement.

• If you are married, make your relationship with your spouse more important than your career. Spend lots of time together. Set aside one night a week for “couple time” – go on romantic dates, and take time to have fun together.

• Watch the movie “Preacher’s Wife” or “A United Kingdom” with your partner.

• Find some way of affirming your love for your spouse every day in the coming year.

• Read more meaningful books and watch less television.

• Join a community or church service group.

• Go to bed earlier, (before 10 p.m.) and raise earlier, giving your body the maximum opportunity to rest and gather energy for the new day.

• If you are married, make it a point to go to bed together with your partner at least three nights a week.

• Make it a point to hug your romantic partner for up to 20 seconds every morning when you first see each other standing on your feet.

• Exercise at least three times a week.

• Listen to inspirational, classical, or soft country music at least once a week. Remember, too much rock music makes one agitated and angry.

• Eat less red meat and highly spiced foods. Remember that lots of red meats affect the heart, and lots of spicy foods affect the stomach. If these are affected, the mind will also be affected.

• Reach out and hold the hand of someone each day.

• Remember, always to say “I love you” to a friend, parent, spouse, or colleague.

For those of us who are Christians, it would be hypocritical not to have the following on this list: Put Christ at the center of your life with daily prays and devotions, and go to church at least once a week.

If there is one year that we need to be transformational and loving it is this coming year. We do not know if the COVID-19 pandemic would continue to ravage our lovely country. We must be creative, resilient, and transformational. Have a happy and meaningful new year.

• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to question@soencouragement.org or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.

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