A different mentality about how to practice Lent
Until Fat Tuesday, I almost forgot that it was Lent again. As I eat lunch with my Catholic friends, I can see the visible disappointment on their faces as they realize that they can’t grab a coveted plate of fries because they gave it up for Lent.
As a Catholic myself, I used to be able to relate to this. I would give up delicious foods for 40 days and nights. Instead of thinking about the meaning of the season as I should have, I would complain that I could not eat what I wanted and would dream of the day I would reunite with a beloved ice cream cone.
I’ve noticed that so many Catholics take this path during Lent and dread this time of year. Ironically, it is supposed to be leading up to the most joyous time in the Liturgical calendar: Easter. Yet, people only think about having to sacrifice their favorite foods and “suffering.” I never found it to be very conducive for a person to give up food just to be bitter about it for 40 days.
Not everyone does this, but I feel like Lent has turned into ‘What are you giving up?’ as opposed to ‘What obstacle will you take on to better yourself?’ If people were to change their attitude and mindset about Lent, it might even turn into an anticipated time of the year for Catholics.
Lent is supposed to be about challenging oneself to make a sacrifice that should not make one suffer, but to show love and devotion to Jesus. It is a great opportunity to reflect and see what things to add or subtract from one’s life, to better oneself. A person can always sacrifice a specific food if they believe it is worsening their health, but do not believe the options are just limited to food during Lent.
Some of my past Lenten sacrifices have included sacrificing time by praying every day, giving up thinking poorly of others, or sacrificing energy by walking my dog every day. (I should mention that some of these are far easier said than done, the last one particularly for me. No matter how much I love my dog, walking with him is a bit painful, because I walk slower than an elderly person).
Furthermore, a person can choose to add something good to his or her life. For example, in the past I’ve decided to do a chore without being told a few times a week, read every day, or eat healthier. Whether a person adds something good or takes away something bad, a person can always improve.
Lent should not be to solely stick with these sacrifices during the season, but to implement them throughout the year. If the goals are inherently good and one can practice them, then continue and make these goals a habit.
I also don’t believe that one has to be Catholic in order to participate in Lent; it should be a conscious effort that everyone always makes. Obviously, someone who is not Catholic would not participate to honor Jesus, but she or he can still try to get rid of a bad habit or add a good one into his or her life.
Lent is not just about having fish on Friday or holding oneself back from eating a doughnut; it is about honoring the sacrifice Jesus made by making your own sacrifice. The best sacrifice one can make is to choose what is right as opposed to what is easiest. So by participating in Lent and self-improvement, one can have an annual opportunity to effectively do this and become his or her best self.