The Zipper Resolution


I remember Lent as a kid and it was always about giving something up. Usually it was candy or sweets.  Other kids, braver and stronger than I, would give up TV.  Now Lent is different. I still try for the candy thing, but I try to look beyond food in conscious choices to do or be different.

Lent always sounds like New Year’s Resolutions and often we joke about those, and how quickly those are broken. I am happy to say that I do much better with Lent than New Years. I take that as a good sign in terms of my Catholic faith.

Some time ago, I taped a picture to my computer screen at work. Many have seen it, but only one co-worker has asked me about it. The college students who work with me probably just take it as confirmation that I am odd. It is my resolution – for Lent and really for every day.

What does it mean?

A picture of a zipper Sheila keeps on her desk.

Is it True? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? If not, zipper (as in my mouth, as in be silent, as in walk away). There are cool looking Pinterest things with this, but my purpose is not décor for the office, or to remind others. It is for me. Quiet. Subtle.

In researching the origins of this, I found out in ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates spoke of it and it was called the Triple Filter Test (Truth, Goodness/Intention, Usefulness/Function).

This, however, is not one of those resolutions where if you fail, you give up. Because I fail often, repeatedly. It is too important, however, to give up. The little reminder puts me back into a place to try again. Following it makes me a better person, better colleague, better friend. Giving up candy has good consequences as well, but that is between the weight scale and me. This resolution, I think, centers my life with God. My relationship with Him is reflected daily, even hourly, in my exchanges with others. My simple “T, N, K” makes me pause. Sometimes it helps and causes me to filter. Sometimes I say things anyway. This resolution helps me recognize my failings.

On the other side, “T, N, K,” also serves as an inspiration to be bold, but on the side of affirmation. Speech is all too often associated with hate and bullying. Negative stuff, but I can use “T, N, K” to lift people up. How many people need that boost? How many people get it? If it is true and it is kind, odds are it is necessary and someone really needs to hear it. Be the light in someone’s otherwise dark day.  That is why my picture is open at the top. I need to find the times when opening my mouth is important and necessary.  Why is this harder for me?  It shouldn’t be.

At the end of each day this Lent, I am going to spend a minute and ask myself “Today was I as quick with my compliments as I was with my complaints?”  If not, I resolve tomorrow to do better. Maybe at the end of the 40 days, I will be able to say “yes” more often than “no.” I know it won’t be every day. God knows that too.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

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