If you’ve ever had friends who were raised in a Christian religion, you more than likely heard the phrase, “I gave it up for Lent.” The tradition of refraining from certain vices, habits, foods or drinks is a common practice during the 40-days before Easter Sunday. While the earlier Church focused on Lent being a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (charitable giving), modern day Christians adopted the practice of giving things up for Lent as a form of “fasting” (some background info available on Lent at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent). Unfortunately, many times, we forget that the triune acts of praying, fasting (or giving up things), and almsgiving were meant to draw is into closer communion with a Higher Power (i.e., God) and instead focus on the act of denying oneself with the wrong intensions. The three acts have to be taken together and seen in the context of what their purpose truly is.
Prayer (an act of loving God) is meant to help us communicate with God. Fasting (an act of loving ourselves by controlling our bodies somehow) is meant to help us listen to what our bodies, minds, and souls are trying to tell us. Almsgiving (an act of loving others) is meant to help us be selfless and to see the needs of our “neighbors” in the world. There is also great power in casting out personal demons through the acts of praying, fasting, and charitable giving according to Christian Scripture (something mentioned in Book Three, The Last Prophet, Raphael’s Journey) and is still widely practiced in various sects of Christianity. While I myself am one who does practice the tradition of giving up certain “things” for Lent, my family and I have also begun the tradition of “doing” something we don’t normally do during the season of Lent. Case in point – this year I gave up going out to eat more than once a week (I used to go out to eat with colleagues or my family three times a week max), but I am also balancing that with making the effort to go an extra day or two to a church service (that’s in addition to our weekly Sunday church attendance) to spend time in prayer. With the extra money saved from not eating out more than once a week, I will be able to do more charitable giving monetarily (almsgiving). By spending that extra time praying and being silent in church, I can gain some much needed peace and time to slow down from the hectic schedule I live as a busy woman.
Why do I mention all this? Whether we practice the tradition of giving things up or doing something more than usual during Lent, one thing is clear to me. All this is meant to make us better individuals and make life better for all somehow. It makes little to no sense to give something up if in doing so we become unpleasant to be around. I wouldn’t want to be around a woman who gave up chocolate for Lent if it only made her grumpy. On that same note, I would feel guilty if I was a homeless person taking cash from someone who was giving it to me as if the world owed THEM something for doing something nice. It’s about perspective and the sentiment that accompanies our actions. If it doesn’t make you a better person, then don’t give it up. If you aren’t giving something out of sincerity and concern, and are only looking for a pat on the back, I’d check myself before giving that extra dollar to someone who is asking. You don’t have to be a Christian or a church-goer or someone who observes Lent in order to make such changes. You DO need to make an honest assessment of your reasons behind committing any kind of changes, and ultimately these changes should be for the BETTER. Keep moving in a positive direction, as someone told me recently.
What in your life should you GIVE UP? What in your life should you be DOING more of? You don’t have to comment in the space provided, but please do reflect on these. There is something to be gained in either the giving up or the doing. There is also something wonderful to be gained from sharing our thoughts on the subject.
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