Lent began this week on Ash Wednesday. Aside from getting ashes on your forehead to represent repentance for sins, most Catholics refrain from eating meat as well, while some fast at various different levels.
If you are Catholic or familiar with Catholic traditions, you are aware with the idea of a “Lenten Promise.” This means for the next 40 days (leading up to Easter), you will make some sacrifice or take something on. Recently I've heard a lot about what people are "giving up" for Lent: red meat, sugar, coffee, desserts, ice cream, chocolate, alcohol, eating between meals etc. Some people that I know who don't even observe the holiday from a religious standpoint are using Lent as incentive to change their habits, "giving up" things they have been meaning to rid their lives of.
One can’t help but wonder, are people really observing Lent or using it as a way to go on a diet?
This question is interesting to me because it is so hard to decipher. In a way, I feel as using Lent as a way to go on a diet or drop those extra pounds is kind of missing the whole point of the season. However, as a healthy living advocate, I am a firm believer that any time and any reason is a good reason to get healthy and Lent is a great time to be grateful for the body we have and treat it right. In college, I gave up my insane soda habit for Lent. It was incredibly hard, but I did it and never looked back. I haven’t had soda for nine years!
Has my health improved by my giving soda up? I am certain it has. But, was that the point? No. But, I will admit it was a plus that I am really happy about. This year I have given up the snooze button, drinking coffee first thing in the morning and sleeping in on weekends. All of these things will be a big sacrifice for me. However, all will benefit me. Not hitting snooze will mean a much less rushed or stressed morning, having water before coffee will ensure better hydration and waking up early on the weekends will allow me more time to enjoy my days off.
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say that giving up something you love or consider a bad habit is sacrilegious because it will benefit you. Most sacrifices do end up bringing gain in the long run, or else we wouldn’t do it.
Giving up something for Lent primarily because it is going to be a true challenge for you should be the way to go. If, in the end if benefits you, think of it as a gift.