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Make this Lent count

| Friday, February 6, 2015

Traditionally, Lent is a time of preparation for Christians, in imitation of the 40 days Christ spent fasting in the desert. But whether you’re Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist or none of the above, you should be giving something up for Lent this year. It’s a good character builder and a practice in humility, a really underappreciated virtue around here.

Lent is characterized as a liturgical season that emphasizes the necessity of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For many, it serves as a sobering reminder of their mortality and fragility and for others, a personal challenge of self-denial. I’m sure we’ve all made good Lenten promises before, giving up fro-yo, Netflix, or – if you have the mindset of a third-grader like I do – homework. I’m sure we’ve all also tried doing something new instead of giving something up: being nicer to our siblings, praying more or exercising more (you know … the things we all probably should do anyway). Even in doing those, however, we’re still giving something up, whether its the time we would have spent doing other things or the pride that would have made us act otherwise.

Lent is very practical.  By giving up even something small, our inconveniences bring our attention to the sheer abundance we live in and those who go without (at least, in theory). Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and our inconveniences bring cynicism and complaints. I’ve got a few tips that I have picked up over the years to help make this Lent the most productive one yet. I’m by no means a Lenten expert; these are just what have worked well for me in the past.

1.  Make it something quantifiable. Something like “be nicer” or “pray more” is great in sentiment, but won’t get you very far in practice.  Giving out three compliments per day or praying 10 minutes after you wake up and 10 minutes before you go to bed will get you much further.
2.  Don’t complain. I know it sucks not to have your morning coffee (believe me – I’ve grown dependent on the stuff), but complaining in this case helps nobody. It just annoys your friends and makes you more unhappy, ruining the spirit of the season.
3.  Don’t bring it up. Unless the topic gets brought up explicitly, try to avoid bringing up your sacrifice at all. It just becomes a fuel for your ego, and you’re not really giving up anything if that’s the case. (This is probably the hardest one for me.)
4.  Don’t give up. Even if you slip up, get right back to it. Missed your daily rosary yesterday? Just continue on the next day. Don’t even feel bad about it. Well, maybe a little bad. But we’ve all been there.
5.  Always keep the “why” in mind. Whether it is a religious motivation or not, there has to be a reason you’re purposefully abstaining from something. Bringing yourself closer in spirit to those who are less fortunate or Christ (who is especially close to the less fortunate) is always a righteous thing to do.
6.  (Optional) If it’s something you know you’re going to screw up, make some sort of reparation. I once knew a friend who wrote a tick on her hand every time she swore during the day and would say a prayer for each of the ticks at the end of the day. Not surprisingly, the ticks eventually disappeared. But don’t abuse it.

Lent is a time of personal and spiritual growth. Let’s make it count this time around.

Brad Stalcup


Fisher Hall

Feb. 4

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


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