Last Wednesday morning marked the beginning of Lent, that 40 days when people who so choose, for religious reasons or otherwise, give something that is a part of their everyday lives. This period is considered a time of denial and self-sacrifice.
If you have never given anything up for Lent, or never given anything up just because, be forewarned this article may not be the most applicable to you. But if you can hang in there for a few paragraphs, why don’t you read on anyway?
Often when we decide what to deny ourselves for Lent, we give up either something we love a lot or a vice. Sometimes those are the same thing. Alcohol , chocolate, ice cream and swearing are all common go-tos.
But all too often, what I see is someone who gives up their chosen pleasure/vice for 40 days, and immediately picks up their habits exactly as they were before once Easter has passed. And there can be some value to be found in just understanding that you have willpower, that you have the strength to deny yourself something you love for 5 ½ weeks. But I believe life is meant to be enjoyed, and I can’t help but wonder- why?
I tell you true, I think there is a lot of good to be found in self-sacrifice. But I would much prefer to focus my efforts on an area of my life where I want to make a change, something that is lasting and permanent. Because otherwise, I have maybe chosen something arbitrary to deny myself, and that is 40 days of my sweet time left on this earth that I have to enjoy whatever that thing may be.
Maybe this post will come too late, but I am notorious for not deciding what I have given up until about a week in. But I have approached this season with a greater sense of compassion. Instead of denying myself something that I love, I want to let go of something that doesn’t serve me anymore.
So what I am giving up for Lent: negative thoughts and more importantly, negative words about my singing. Lately my attention has been called to the self-sabotage I commit regarding my career; those thousand little ways that I cut myself down, underplay my talents and my hard work, and doubt, doubt, doubt.
I am more than sure that these thoughts will crop up and creep in. This might be somewhere on the difficulty scale between ice cream and cheese (cheese is SO hard to give up!). And for a while, my behavior may not be a reflection of what I am really feeling. But what I have learned is that you cannot change your feelings by trying. They quickly become stuck and resist. But you can change your actions by trying. And eventually, if you continue to act a certain way, you start to believe yourself. Feelings are not under the realm of logic and reason, but behavior is. So I hope and believe that if I act less critical of myself, I will come to criticize myself less. And the promise-prospect?- of a life beyond the 40 days where I am kinder to myself (and in turn, I’m sure, to others) is worth well more than 40 days of sacrifice and denial.