Whether you are religious, faithful or spiritual, completely or in fits and starts, some sincere self-discipline can go a long way toward creating a feeling of accomplishment. But does self-discipline mean avoiding sweets and walking each day? Could it entail a daily period or prayer or meditiation? Does it mean depriving yourself of something you enjoy for a greater purpose? Or does it translate to doing something you don’t enjoy so much?
All this comes to my mind as the Christian community enters a period of reflection known as Lent, the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter that mark a time of spiritual renewal and preparation for what is to come. Participating in this ritual may include fasting at certain times and from specific foods, but the part of Lent I find most interesting is the tradition of self-denial, of “giving something up” for the duration of Lent as a means to give one’s spirit a sort of spring cleaning.
The concept gained poignancy for me as I came across a Facebook post the other day. An old friend shared that she had a serious conversation with her young son, during which she explained what Lent is all about. He went to his room to consider the circumstances, and returned to willingly hand over his most favorite stuffed toy.
That little guy will no doubt learn something about going without, but perhaps adults would benefit more from taking something on. In the conversation that followed my friend’s post about her son, one person noted he prefers to honor the season by accepting a new discipline instead of forgoing a favorite food or activity. One year, that took the form of meditation while creating art, which he then gave away. This resonated with me.
A quick Google search of the phrase “what to give up for Lent” brought up a faith-based website where people had posted some creative ideas for getting closer to their spiritual selves that ranged from acknowledging people who had been kind to them, to letting go of a negative attitude toward a particular individual, to ending a bad relationship with Little Debbie snack cakes that led one woman to lie to her husband.
Whatever your spiritual persuasion, there’s probably at least one thing we would each like to work on, have a nagging suspicion we should work on, or have been told my our spouse we should work on (not that I'm speaking from experience or anything ... ). But overall, the idea is to identify an aspect of yourself that could use some polishing - not always an easy thing for an adult to do. I know I need a lot of "polishing" - but what of that will provide something positive to the greater community? Are you soul searching, too?