Recently I've seen many suggestions for Lenten disciplines, including some attributed to Pope Francis, though I haven't been able to confirm that.  What they all have in common is giving up something altogether bad, such as ingratitude or selfishness.  This is good, but it does make giving up something for Lent seem more like baptizing New Year's resolutions.  It was Jennifer Fulwiler who opened my eyes to the idea that giving up something you know you should quit altogether misses one of the best parts of Lent:  the symbolic value of experiencing the Easter resurrection joy in a personal, physical way.  Here's how she put it six years ago:

Here’s what [Lenten disciplines] I decided on: a decade of the Rosary first thing each morning, and no adding sugar to my morning tea (a small but surprisingly noticeable sacrifice for me). And…well, umm…there’s one other thing that I couldn’t decide if I would admit or not…but I guess I’ll go ahead and say it:

I’m giving up cursing for Lent.

Now, before you form an image of me yelling at my kids to stop jumping on the $%^! couch or asking my husband to pass the $%&*!# salt at dinner, let me say that it’s not that bad. I don’t use bad words in front of the kids, and it’s not like I walk around spewing profanity when I’m around adults. It’s just that I’ve noticed lately that, well, sometimes I just can’t seem to express myself without pulling out a word from my pre-conversion lexicon. So I’m really working on that during Lent, hopefully adopting habits that will last for the long-term.

Giving up adding sugar to drinks was actually a last-minute addition to my Lenten plans. I’d always heard that you should give up something good, but I didn’t really get why, so I just went with giving up cursing for Lent. But then I heard people who had given up something good talking about their plans for Easter, and it all clicked.

For example, someone I know who gave up cheese talked about how she’s going to get a huge, lavish cheese tray for brunch on Easter. When I imagined her going that long 40 days with nary [a] bite of one of her favorite foods, I could see how the ecstatic joy of the Resurrection would hit her at an even deeper, visceral level as she bit into savory chunks of Camembert and felt the luscious Brie melt in her mouth after the long fast.

Then I pictured myself rising on Easter morn’, taking a deep breath, and shouting the f-word. Umm, yeah. That’s why giving up something that’s bad anyway doesn’t quite have the same effect. So no sugar in my tea for Lent.


Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 3, 2017 at 7:51 am | Edit
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Giving up something for Lent is good discipline. These days most people are lacking in self-control. The mere concept of self-control seems to be a thing of the past.

However, laudable as it is to exercise self-control, it is something paradoxical, for as Jiddu Krishnamurti so aptly pointed out, one is merely someone trying to be something one is not. It is putting a patch on a wound. Patch and all, the wound is still there, underneath. Once the period of self-discipline passes, one goes back to doing the same things...

I am a cusser. It helps me let off steam. I do try to keep it to myself, in order not to hurt sensitive ears, but come to think of it, any language is just noise to those who do not understand it.

It has taken me a while to substitute "oh my gosh" for "oh my God", because in Hispanic countries, saying "¡Ay, Dios mío!" is not considered taking God's name in vain.

Other words could be substituted for acceptable alternatives as well. Such as Sheol in place of Hell; zounds instead of f***, and bull patties instead of sh**.

So what am I doing for Lent? I'm trying to give up sweets. After all, I am 30 pounds overweight. Again. :D

Posted by Diane L Villafane-Onder on Friday, March 03, 2017 at 8:34 am

Hmm. I would have thought that to change, i.e. become something I'm not (yet), I'd have to start by trying to be something I'm not. Good intentions may pave the path to hell (sorry, Sheol), but they are also the seeds of intentional change.

Posted by Stephan on Friday, March 03, 2017 at 2:59 pm

"Hypocrisy can do a man good. The distinction between pretending you are better than you are and beginning to be better in reality is finer than moral sleuthhounds conceive. When a boor first enters the society of courteous people what can he do, for a while, except imitate the motions? How can he learn except by imitation?" — C. S. Lewis

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, March 03, 2017 at 3:44 pm
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