BIGGI: Lenten promises can establish long-term habits
March 6, 2014
Filed under Viewpoints
It is that time of the year again. No, I do not mean spring – with the current weather, I don’t think that will come anytime soon. I am talking about the Lenten season when Catholics refrain from something, which represents repenting for sins.
I always consider Lent a chaotic mess. There is always the family promise of going to mass at least once a week. Then there is also the problem of my Presbyterian mom and Catholic dad.
This year, I decided to give up meat for Lent. How creative, I know. The pathetic part is I used to be a vegetarian, so I am clearly stretching my boundaries this year. It will be especially difficult with the delicious array of high-end steaks in the dining halls.
Regardless, these sacrifices only last so long before we forget they ever happened. Upon reflecting on how lazy I am, I realized the Lenten season is a time when I can try something out to improve a personal flaw. Then, eventually, I may be capable of making the change permanent.
The purpose of giving something up for Lent is to rededicate one’s life to God before the Easter season, but the Catholic faith also focuses on dedicating every day to helping those around us rather than just 40 days each year.
Lots of people try to give up fried food, candy or pizza, and I certainly applaud their effort, but who is that going to benefit? Sure, your loved ones may appreciate that you might live a bit longer, but not eating junk food mostly improves you rather than anyone surrounding you.
And when I try and go on a diet, I tend to last about three days before I go mad over some AMU chicken tenders every meal period. Even growing up I would voluntarily give up something like McDonald’s, but would then coax my nanny into getting me a McFlurry. Sometimes I worry that Lent is the same way: we give up something temporarily and then we just revert to our old ways. What good does it do?
So in addition to temporarily giving up meat, I’ve decided to give up something that can leave a permanent impact: all use of the r-word.
No, I do not say it excessively, but I sometimes catch myself slipping it out when frustrated. In a time of supposed equality, it is important that it be normal for people to perpetually respect one another, and this can be achieved through what we promise during lent. How cool would it be to live in a society where no one says the r-word?
We often give something up, bounce right back into our temptation and then just pretend like Lent is not even going on anymore. The fact of the matter is most people will not follow through with their Lenten promise, and that is fine. But we just need to be cognizant of our flaw so we can slowly improve it.
I hate saying that I have to give up the r-word for Lent. I also hate that I say the word “hate,” but as humans, we all have our shortcomings. That is why over a short period time, we are capable of improving an aspect of ourselves for the long term.