Culture At Large

Do you have One Word for 2012?

Caryn Rivadeneira

Last year I jumped on the One Word resolution bandwagon. Well, actually, shuffled behind and slunk up on the bandwagon is more like it. While lots of people I admire were doing it and it seemed like a nice enough idea, it also seemed sort of silly, this picking of one inspirational or challenging or God-prompted word to try to live out for a whole year. That is, it seemed silly until I realized how God was working on me through my One Word, which last year was mercy.

I chose mercy because it was the subject of my favorite chapters in my latest book - and one of the most challenging topics for me to write about. Turned out, I wasn’t as merciful as I wanted to be. So, for 2011, mercy was my goal. For the first six months of 2011, I patted myself on the back nearly never day. What a merciful girl I was. Not honking at annoying drivers. Smiling at fellow shoppers even as they butted in front of me. Turning my car around to give the man with the “Hungry” sign a few bucks. I was a mercy champ - right up until the afternoon my husband sent me an e-mail which had “Unbelievable” in the subject line and read: “Look what turned up in my Google Alerts,” with a link to a story about a dog attacking a hiker.

As I scanned the story in the Green Bay Gazette, my blood boiled. The “attack dog” in the story? My dog! Who did no such thing. I googled the story and found it was running in papers across northern Wisconsin. Dog-attack bloggers (who knew!) had picked it up, writing that my husband should be thrown in jail, that we should have our kids taken away, that our dog - who according to them made “hamburger” out of a woman - should be shot.

Over a story that didn’t happen.

I wanted revenge. Big time. So I took to my keyboard, lashing out would-be letters to the editor, would-be comments to the terrible bloggers. I related the real story. The truth! I cried foul, presented evidence, facts along with scathing words about stupidly careless reporting and dog-breed discrimination. The injustice!

And then the word: mercy.


Ugh. Right. Mercy. Mercy to the woman whose hiking sticks my dog had jumped on and who had gone to the doctor to treat her resulting scratch, to the doctor who was required to report it to the sheriff, to the reporter with the interesting definition of attack and even to the merciless bloggers. They were all people, like me, in need of mercy from me.

Thus my silly little word became not so silly.

A friend of mine defines mercy as knowing “there’s always more to the story.” That I was now the one whose “more to the story” needing telling took mercy to whole new levels. No longer would mercy be only about how I treated those I interacted with, but how I treated those I didn’t even know. Mercy needed to shape how I reacted to news, how I told stories, how I sought truth, even how I prayed. That was the power of the One Word resolution.

So, this year, I’ve got a new word: increase. I’m excited - and a little scared - about what God will do with me and this word, especially as it’s meant in the “increase my faith” sense (although, increase to my bank account is fine too). I’m hoping it won’t involve scandalous stories, but even if it does, I’ll welcome it if it’s a chance to see God at work in me this year.

How about you? Have you chosen a word?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Faith