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Let’s embrace contentment, humility in 2016

COMMENTARY
By David Oginde | January 3rd 2016

NAIROBI: I have always been amazed at the wisdom of God in setting times and seasons – day and night, weeks, months, and years. It just brings some order and sequence to life, which would otherwise be one long exhausting trip to the grave.

Every twelve hours or so, we are forced to change course and take a break from the routines of daylight or nightlife. Our bodies are hence revitalised.

Likewise, the circles of the weeks, months and years refresh us – at least psychologically.

Accordingly, whereas there really is nothing practically different between December 31st and January 1st, yet the transition is awaited with such anticipation.

The pomp, colour, and fireworks that light the global skies, make it feel as if something actually happens at midnight on December 31. The truth is that it is no different from other midnights.

One thing is true however: the New Year brings with it an opportunity for new beginnings. It offers us a universally recognised chance to right some wrongs, to kill some habits, and embark on a new journey.

New Year resolutions have thus become a common practice the world over.

Sadly, though, many of such resolutions do not survive a few months, sometimes not even weeks. No wonder many acres of pages have been written on why many New Year resolutions fail to bear fruit.

Why do the changes in times and seasons not also bring us character transformation that we often so desperately desire?

Interestingly, this was a subject of muse at our church youth camp that I participated in at the close of the year. We wondered why good intentions, especially on character change, rarely materialised.

Why do good people do bad things? Typical of young people, we came up with a hash tag, #Kuyeyuka, which captures the dilemma. #Kuyeyuka is the tendency of an individual to succumb to internal passions or external pressures. When faced with moral or ethical choices, the person melts like butter under heat – anayeyuka.

Thus they end up doing that which they know is wrong, simply because they lack the ability to stand up under the internal or external pressure. Internal pressure has to do with personal desires, feelings, or passions. Any person who gives in to these has lost self-control – the ability to say no to self!

External pressure has to do with what people think about us. It is the push to look successful, sound knowledgeable, or appear influential. #Kuyeyuka is therefore to yield to peer pressure simply to win the approval of others.

On reflection, it does appear that most of the challenges we face with values and integrity in this country have to do with #Kuyeyuka. Because of internal or external pressures, many of us want to attain or acquire things that are well beyond our means.

Consequently, we take shortcuts – we cheat in exams, manipulate accounts, take or give bribes, or enter into crippling debt. Similarly, because of uncontrolled passions, we engage in illicit sex, drug or alcohol abuse, or join crime.

For others, the desire for recognition drives them into seeking leadership positions that sometimes are obviously beyond their capacity. The result is often organisational manipulation or corrupt political deals.

Deep within, our consciences remind us that these things are wrong. No wonder, every January some of us make New Year resolutions, seeking to divorce every evil act or habit. We vow to never again take shortcuts, engage in crime, or compromise our values. We promise to quit politics, downsize the business, or stay with the ramshackle. But that is before reality strikes.

When the heat is turned on, we melt like butter; caution is thrown to the wind and we are back to our old evil pursuits. King Solomon put it crudely in one of his proverbs: As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
What must we do? Two things are critical: self-control and contentment. Self-control is the ability to regulate internal combustion – the raging desires and passions.

Contentment is the ability to accept and be happy with who you are. It is possessing the humility to learn from others without comparing or competing with them.

It is the joy of charting your own destiny at your own pace. If you embrace these twin kids, you will not only set sober resolutions but will have the joy of reaping their fruits. May I therefore wish you a very happy 2016 – devoid of #Kuyeyuka!

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