New Clothing for the New Year
You may have heard of the saying that the clothes make the person. What if you could choose clothing that will help make you the person you are becoming? What if you could clothe yourself in such a way that you would not only live out your best self, but help others be their best selves too? As we begin a new calendar year, I want to suggest new clothes for the new year.
The messages of peace, hope, good will, and love have been present in a big way throughout the holidays. Yet what happens after the holidays are over? When New Year (January) comes, we often feel a let-down. As one of my clients put it, she had a kind of “doomsday” feeling in the wake of the holidays.
One sacred text I know (and preached from this past week) suggests a way to continue that holiday spirit in our daily lives: “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” And then it says, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” What would it be like to make these your new clothes for the new year?
What Comes Next
The new year is always a strange time — a time that’s “‘twixt and ‘tween”’ as the saying goes. It’s a time for looking back – What’s happened in the past year? What were my joys? my sorrows? What did I accomplish? But it’s also a time for looking ahead: What will this new year bring?
New Year’s Day in my family as I was growing up was a “’twixt and ‘tween” time as well. It’s not only a day of feasting, with the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch pork and sauerkraut, and lots of holiday cheer, but it’s also the time when all the holiday decorations come down and are packed away for another year.
By the end of the day, the house looks very bare and sort of sad. Stretching before us is the major portion of the winter — with gray days and cold weather. The new year is a poignant time — both happy and sad. It’s both an end and a beginning.
It’s all too easy on New Year’s Day to pack away — along with the holiday trappings — all the joy and peace and good will that we’ve been celebrating for the past weeks. It is all too easy to make our hearts and our lives as bare as our houses feel. That’s especially true when you look at everything that is going on in the world. What would it be like if you put on new clothing for the new year instead?
False Evidence Appearing Real
We continue to be in the midst of the great unraveling of old patterns, and the natural response is fear. The media amplifies this fear response. You’ve heard me call it fear mongering more than once, with good reason!
As we begin a new year and move even further into this new era of consciousness, I am more convinced than ever of the necessity to move through our fears in order to live freely and joyfully.
A definition of fear that I’ve found helpful is the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real. That is often so true, isn’t it?
If we don’t run away from our feelings of fear, but take a good, direct look at them instead, most fears end up being false evidence appearing real. That is important because it means we have a choice:
We can choose to live out of the “reality” that such evidence creates, or we can choose to move through the fear to the larger, more expansive reality. And that brings me back to new clothes for the new year.
Coming back to the sacred text I preached from this past week: it says, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” And then it says, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
Every spiritual tradition I know of has these central core characteristics. These are the ways in which we are called to live out our lives in relationship to ourselves and to others.
Here is where the metaphor is brilliant. Life gets in the way of our living these core characteristics. But what if you saw them as clothing — the foundational garments that you put on each and every day? What if, when things get rough and the news is scary, you can put on the garment of love?
What if these aren’t just attitudes or characteristics we strive towards? How would our lives and the world look if we truly put on these clothes every day?
Dressing for Change
These clothes won’t wear out. We can put on these clothes even in the midst of the darkest, coldest days of winter. If you’re having a bad day, or something difficult happens, and yet you still choose to clothe yourself with compassion and kindness and love, how would that change you? And how would that change everyone around you?
What binds all these characteristics together — the thread that connects all the garments if you will — is love. “Love is what we are born with; fear is what we learn,” says Marianne Williamson.
Fear locks us down, diminishes us, and contracts us: we draw in upon ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Since we have been living in a fear-based culture for many years now, we have also been living in a contracted, shut-down culture.
Love, on the other hand, expands us, opens us up, and connects us with others. Love is the one antidote to fear that I know of. And yes, we are born with love. It is only through painful life experiences that we begin that process of contraction in which we learn fear and we learn to live in fear.
So with the author of this sacred text I also encourage you to, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Doing that will keep the spirit of peace, hope and joy moving in you and in others throughout the year.
If the clothes indeed make the person, then if you consciously choose to wear these clothes daily, they will change you – and change the world.