Image Courtesy of Christianity.com
By Caroline Morris
We’ve all heard the classic Lenten jokes. This year, I’m giving up school. This year, I’m giving up Lent. This year, I’m giving up. But after a year where everyone, worldwide, has given up so much, how can anyone willingly choose to give up more?
As the pandemic has continued from 2020 into 2021, many people are starting to feel like things may never look up. They feel as though the sacrifices they made by leaving school and staying away from friends and family were all for naught as the COVID-19 virus rages on.
So, people have had to turn to the little things. The newest Netflix content may be the only escape from the life of an essential worker. A piece of chocolate might be the comfort food someone needs to get through the day.
But as Lent approaches, these everyday indulgences are once again threatened by the chopping block, because there is little else to give up when the world is shut down.
So how do you do it? When a cup of coffee is the only thing getting you out of bed in the morning, how can you force yourself to say goodbye for 40 days?
Maybe you don’t have to.
The idea of giving up physical, measurable things or indulgences for Lent is very ingrained in the childhood mindset of Catholicism. But faith is supposed to grow with you as you age, mature by your side. We no longer have to believe that Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, so why should we keep to the exact Lenten understanding we had as children?
Giving things up can be an important part of a Lenten experience, but it does not have to be abstaining from a treat or deleting social media. A good sacrifice can be one of behavior, which in being let go can actually be a gain.
This Lent, I am giving up uncharitable speech. I, like many others, often find myself speaking about others in a way that does not give them the benefit of the doubt, or does not show charity to my brother or sister in Christ. It is a habit that I struggle to kick and often justify as “venting,” but ultimately makes me feel guilty because the people around me deserve better.
By giving this up, I gain. I no longer practice a habit that worsens myself and hurts others, but I also grow in love and compassion. So even in a year when it feels like we’ve all been asked to sacrifice so much, giving something up for Lent can be a way to gain back something better.
Another way to practice during Lent is by doing. By adding a good thing into your life, it can be another way to show your devotion to Jesus during the 40 days. This isn’t always something that we are taught when we are little, but it can be a fantastic way to feed your spiritual life. It can be an extra five minutes of prayer time a day, reading the daily Bible passages, joining a rosary group, or another of the countless other small ways to add instead of subtract.
It is also so important to remember that perfection is not always possible. We are human. We make mistakes. If one Friday you forget to abstain from meat and eat Chick-Fil-A, all is not lost. If you redownload TikTok after giving it up, the app can be deleted again. If I slip up and complain about a classmate, I will not give up on my Lenten promise. Jesus fell with the cross on his back; His body failed in human weakness, but He got back up and continued on, and so should we. Do not be afraid to fall and do not give up if you do.
In my mind, Lent is about making our greatest effort to better ourselves for the Lord, and if all you can manage during a worldwide pandemic is something small, then do something small. There is no need to compare the largeness or loudness of sacrifice. Your greatest effort is defined by you, not those around you. The Lord appreciates it all.