What did you give up for Lent?

When Lent comes up in discussion with non-Catholic friends often the one thing they know about it is that you're supposed to "give something up."  You might choose to be didactic in your answer - explaining that when you're a kid you "give up" something like candy or a beloved treat, but that as you get older, you can use Lent as an occasion for serious self-improvement and growth.  Often the obstacles you thought might have been insurmountable become effortless over 40 days of sustained effort.

Television was never very beloved in our home growing up.  I was allowed thirty minutes on schooldays after homework was done.  But in my early teens I gave even those 30 minutes and...I never really went back to watching television.  I can look back on previous Lents with satisfaction at bad habits stamped out.

But what happens when you can't wait for Lent because you're going to "get" to improve something?  Indeed I recently shared with a TR colleague that "giving up sugar" in my coffee was hardly a real suffering, but rather one more way I could cut sugar out of my diet and more thoroughly enjoy a drink on its own flavor.  The season should still be penitential, right?

So, I decided a couple weeks ago to give up complaining for Lent.  Christianity always indicates to us that it's not enough to be kind.  You have to think kindly, too.  Not externally complaining is pretty easy.  But why not upgrade that?  Don't just grin and bear it...grin, and take the opportunity to ridicule yourself and your first world problems.

Just before I want to complain I visualize a hole in the ground I've scooped out in preparation for filling it with the gall of my self-pity.  And then, I instead use that pre-existing hole to instead pour in balm and honey, in gratitude.  I focus on thoughts and ideas exactly contrary to those issues I want to complain about.

View your injuries and slights - both great and small - from Our Lord's perspective.  See how deeply He loves us, how much grace He has afforded us, and how well we should use this time he has given us.

Give up complaining, even inside yourself, this Lent.  After 40 days (and I suspect, much sooner), you'll realize just how passé and childish that complaining is.

Stephen Heiner

Stephen lives in Paris, France. He founded True Restoration in 2006.

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