Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood

What Are You Doing for Lent?


Well, it’s Fat Tuesday, and amidst all the consumption of Paczki and Pancakes and such, I need to decide today what I’m doing for Lent. Which — gulp — starts tomorrow. And I want your help.

In the past, I’ve tried the “giving up” strategy. I’ve given up sweets, television, meat, makeup, and spending money on non-grocery items. I could do any of those again except give up TV, because I’m teaching a course this term on religion and popular culture and we watch a lot of clips.


But it feels like old hat to me. While I appreciate the idea of sacrifice, I worry that my Lenten disciplines have too often devolved into self-improvement experiments. I’d like to have my Lenten be a time of spiritual deepening and preparation for Easter, not just a religious veneer over a quest for thinner thighs.

What have you done that actually pushed you spiritually? (And if it’s dietary — go ahead and tell me! Just because that wasn’t very spiritual for me doesn’t mean it wasn’t for you.) Have you volunteered at a soup kitchen? Found ways to love your neighbor? Prayed more? Done daily devotions? Read a particular part of the Bible? Given up something that meant a lot to you?

Thanks for any and all suggestions. –JKR

  • Ellen

    We’re trying something new in our house, which is eliminating “I want” from our vocabularies for Lent. Not for routine conversations, as in “What do you want for breakfast?” But I’m trying to help break my kids of the habit of constantly telling me they want this toy and that shirt, and even that they want a play date with so and so and a sleepover with this other friend and, and, and…It’s constant. For me, I’m going to try to do less of my own kind of whining about wanting more sleep, more time, fewer interruptions, etc. It’s an experiment and might be a little too inexact for my kids to grasp. I’m not sure the little ones quite understand when I distinguish between, “I want oatmeal this morning,” and, “I want this song on my iPod.” (I’ve gotten so I won’t even play the radio in the car because I hear that one so often.) On top of that, we’re going to resurrect our habit of starting dinner by saying what we’re grateful for. We used to do it all the time and have let the habit slide.

  • Tracey

    Hi Jana!
    So this year Earth Day and Good Friday are on the same date. So I’m “going greener” for Lent this year. Trying to do a few planet friendly things to remind myself of God’s Creation. Usually I’m one for using Jesus to curb my Diet Coke habit or adoration for chocolate. . . . nothing like dieting for Jesus? But this year, green it up. I’m also a blogger and writer (met you at the Calvin Festival last year). I’m challenging people to do the same over at Give it a try!

  • Ted

    My wife and I tried eating out last year for Lent (our first time observing it) and it failed pretty spectacularly (but we still had a good time with it). This year, because as Tracey said, Earth Day and Good Friday line up, we’re gonna try to live a more green life. Our main “giving up” goal is to give up meat for Lent, but in general have a more green-conscious mindset.

  • Kelly

    I’m still mulling it over and will likely make a snap decision when I get up Ash Wednesday morning. I usually pursue a three-point plan of spiritual improvement :-). The overarching theme is mindfulness– avoiding mindless consumption & mindless reactions of impatience and anger and uncharitable thoughts:
    1) give up chocolate (I try to be mindful of this as a Lenten sacrifice and not another attempt to have a good week at Weight Watchers!)
    2) no buying stuff – other than essentials – + more charitable giving
    3) no swearing or becoming angry while driving
    I’ve found in the past that #3 is the most difficult, and I have broken it in the car on Ash Wed, with the ashes fresh on my forehead. Hmmm, maybe I should give up driving. That would go nicely with Tracey’s Go Green for Lent idea.

  • Melody

    I am intrigued by this idea as a member of a religion that does not really celebrate (Is that the right word?) Lent, recognize Ash Wednesday or make a big deal out of Good Friday. I remember as a little girl really finding meaning in the entire process which I felt definitely better prepared me for Easter. Every year I would give up being mean to or fighting with my younger brothers, trying to treat them the way I thought Jesus would. It really was effective. It made Palm Sunday and the recognition of Jesus’ sacrifice much more meaningful. And we got palm fronds to take home which was a tactile reminder of that. Now I am not even practicing a religion, but I feel drawn to that series of spiritually focused events. Obviously it has been meaningful to me in the past and, it seems, it still is. In the spirit of giving something up for Lent I’m going to do the following: Give up 30 minutes a day to really focus on a spiritual study program I set for myself, no buying anything other than essentials and donating more to charity(Love that, Kelly!), and giving up carbonated beverages, not for the Weight Watchers benefit, but for the “fasting” benefit. Thank-you, Jana, for getting me thinking about this again.

  • Jana

    Thank you, everyone! Last night I hit upon what I would do, inspired greatly by Ellen’s comment about whining. I whine a good deal, I think. I can also be very critical. So for Lent I am giving up the “right” to be critical of the people I love. My tongue will be bloody from all those times I will be biting it! It already came up this morning (I was about to be critical that my daughter hadn’t made her bed in the neatest possible way, though she had done it without even being nagged) and I caught myself just in time . . . . I am going to work harder at loving the people I love.
    I do reserve the right to be critical of books, movies, TV, and total strangers. And Charlie Sheen.

  • SteveP

    I’m giving up buying books for Lent. I buy way more than I read. I can’t seem to help buying books that come to my attention. So here goes. No book buying (not even Kindle books). Ack, I’m tempted already.

  • Gigi

    Checking in a few days late, but in the spirit of sharing: my faith (LDS) does not do Lent, but I like the concept very much and so the last few years I have sometimes tried to observe Lent as a way to be more mindful of the season. Even giving up chocolate has worked in that way for me (perhaps because Lent is still a fresh practice). This year I decided to give up the time I spend “puzzling” – solving the daily puzzles in the NYTimes and a favorite online game. Sure they keep my mind sharp. They also keep me from engaging with my family, and from pointing my life somewhere instead of just filling time. It’s been good so far!

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