What I’m giving up for Lent (and why should I?) ~


My younger son & I were discussing Lent today. He said he wasn’t much in to suffering as an element of religious faith. And I agreed.

In my younger life, I didn’t observe Lent. At least, not with more than a superficial, glib ‘oh, I’m giving up soda…hee hee!’ Nothing critical, nothing really much of a ‘doing without.’

And then I went to live for years in Saudi Arabia, where Ramadan – that season of fasting & reflection – held sway throughout every element of the culture. For weeks on end. I was fascinated, & asked friends about the custom, which I was familiar with from a year lived in Algeria, but didn’t know well.

Was it – like my understanding of Lent – about suffering? About the origin of Shrove Tuesday? Penance for our sins, hence the suffering? And no, it wasn’t. Ramadan is about a different kind of doing without: a kind of suffering in solidarity. It’s about a very small taste of what it’s like to be poor, to be w/out food & even water. To go w/out luxuries like perfume, cosmetics. To remember that for much of the world, life is a matter of bare survival.

That made such sense to me! And so I began to observe Lent, trying to give up something meaningful. I haven’t been able to do an entire Ramadan yet; it’s so very hard. But I can let go of something I enjoy a great deal, something that is part of my daily life. So that a small tear appears in the fabric of my days. Something that serves as a daily reminder of the very different lives lived around our wrold.

This year, like one previous, I’m giving up FaceBook. But this year it’s a harder, following a move that has left me far more isolated from friends & family than before. Two of my three beloved sisters are on FB, posting pictures of their daily lives. Most of my communication w/ my friends – spread all over the globe – is through FB these days. I will miss that these next 40 days. Miss knowing how they are from day to day. Miss just hearing their ‘voices.’

And that’s as it should be. It wouldn’t be an authentic giving up if it didn’t leave at least a bit of a hole. That’s the point, isn’t it? Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday: are you giving up anything for Lent? Want to share what it is?

4 thoughts on “What I’m giving up for Lent (and why should I?) ~”

  1. I prefer to do something positive rather than to give up something. As a recovering Catholic, I don’t particularly practice Lent, but when I do i tend to think differently about it. Lent is supposed to be about atonement–not necessarily suffering. Yes it is modeled on Christ’s 40 days in the desert, but Christ was not out there suffering, he was being tested. In fact, he was being tempted. Deprivation can be a test, but so can doing something positive–sticking to it. And frankly, I would rather atone or be tested by doing something like eating better or exercising, or committing to do some yoga or to watch one documentary a week or something. I’m not a Buddhist because I can’t buy into the first noble truth that life is suffering. I’m also no epicurean to think life is all pleasure, but certainly to focus on a positive rather than a negative is always the better thing. Maybe for Lent, I should make myself blog everyday.


    1. What a great twist on the usual take, Rosary. I like the positive spin. For me, though, I try to do positive as a daily routine (not that you don’t, as well!). So it’s good for me to ‘give up something,’ as I think of others having to do — not through choice, but through necessity. But yes, of COURSE doing something proactive (like blogging!) can be a kind of atonement, or test. As anyone who has tried to live a compassionate life will atttest (especially these days!!). As for the Noble Truths: I think of what the Dalai Lama says: my religion is kindness. That, to me, is the essence of Buddhism. (But I do believe that much of life is suffering, grounded in the three mind poisons: anger, desire, & ignorance…).


  2. Granted since I posted this I have been too sick with allergy crud (as has my mom) to post, and I am hospice caring for my oldest cat, so I haven’t blogged.


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