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March 8, 2011 / erostositko

Fat Tuesday & Fasting

Are you getting ready to binge on burgers and doughnuts in preparation for a Lenten fast? Instead of giving up meat, candy, or alcohol, why not vow to be better to yourself and others? (Meat’s not really that much of a sacrifice these days anyway, and in my world, having to eat pizza, sushi, or mac ‘n cheese is actually a treat!)

Every Ash Wednesday I am reminded of a column I read a while back in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Whether you’re religious or not, everyone should be able to appreciate these words of wisdom. The message here is don’t get so caught up in rules that you miss the big picture.


The following article ran March 12, 2003 in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Use Lent to Become a Better Person
By Lucia Herndon

It’s been a week since Lent began. One week since Ash Wednesday and the start of the 40-day period of self-denial that some Christians observe as Easter approaches.

It’s interesting to see what people will deny themselves.

Some are giving up the traditional things – such as eating meat, chocolate, desserts. I have one friend who is giving up cheese.

I understand the idea behind denial. It’s to help you empty yourself, the better to gain clarity.

But most people wind up using denial to punish themselves. And they don’t do it quietly. They’re eager to tell you what they’ve given up and how tortured they’re feeling. Just look at the person who has given up chocolate for Lent. You don’t have to ask her – she’ll tell you in a mournful voice how she craves it. How it’s making her crazy. How she can’t wait until Lent is over.

It’s like the Lenten diet – something to try, and thank God, it’s over in 40 days.

I’m not sure that much long-lasting clarity is gained by that sacrifice. Maybe a little self-examination needs to occur before we stop eating Reese’s Pieces.

How about giving up being proud? I don’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard and take pride in a job well done. I’m talking not only about the pride that makes us think our work is better than others’; I’m talking about the pride that makes us think we are better than others – that what we think and do and feel is more important than what other people think and feel and do. Pride makes us dismissive of other people’s feelings and can make us downright rude.

Give this up, and you might find yourself listening to others when they speak instead of talking over them or simply not listening because you think you know more than they do.

Denying yourself a sense of superiority will make you do some other interesting things. You might say “thank you” to someone. You might ask for others’ help or advice and really hear what they have to say. And you’ll probably thank them for it.

You might try giving up being miserly. There’s nothing wrong with money management and watching your pennies in these times of economic uncertainty. But you could find that if you donate some of your money to a worthy cause you’ll actually get back more than the money you’ve spent.

Doesn’t make sense, you say. Doesn’t add up? What comes back to you will be not money but a soul-satisfying sense of being useful. That’s worth far more than a healthy checkbook balance.

Lent should be a preparation for all the rest of the year. Insights gained can be put to use to make one mindful of and responsive to the needs of others. You can use this season of denial to be a better person the rest of the year.

In the spirit of Lent, a thought for all seasons:

Fast from criticism, and feast on praise;

Fast from self-pity, and feast on joy;

Fast from ill temper, and feast on peace;

Fast from resentment, and feast on contentment;

Fast from jealousy, and feast on humility;

Fast from pride, and feast on love;

Fast from selfishness, and feast on service;

Fast from fear, and feast on faith.

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One Comment

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  1. Marci Landsmann / Mar 16 2011 10:45 pm

    Amen.

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