Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is discord, harmony ….” — St. Francis of Assisi
Traditionally, some Christian churches ask us to forfeit something we enjoy for the duration of the Lenten season. We might choose to give up alcohol, potato chips, peanut butter, shoes shopping, ice cream, favorite TV shows (or, heaven forbid, dark chocolate truffles) while we prepare for “rebirth” on Easter Sunday.
I won’t argue with any of that — and I’m not incapable of postponing pleasure when the occasion calls for it. Truth is, I find that chocolate, one of my diehard addictions and pleasures, is so much easier to surrender than a genuine bad habit.
So what’s the point?
Over the years I’ve come to view Lent as a fresh opportunity for serious soul-searching. I love the idea of escaping to a metaphorical desert for 40 days to review and purge my bad habits; to strip away the stubborn layers of outworn grievances. (Not that I’ve been entirely successful in previous attempts.) All said and done, I try to use the whole Lenten season as an extended spa for the spirit; a reflective retreat.
Though my list is long and overly ambitious for 40 weekdays, here are just a few of the lousy habits and ridiculous behaviors I’d like to give up:
*Caring (too much) about what other people think.
*Believing that it’s my role in life to keep everyone happy all the time — even when I’m exhausted or over-extended.
*Believing I must achieve something big in order to make a difference or have value as a human being.
*Taking the key players in my life for granted while fussing over others who don’t deserve as much attention.
*Buying more black clothing than I can possibly wear.
*Worrying about things I can’t possibly fix or control, including my mother’s dementia.
*Assuming that the most expensive product is always superior.
*Feeling guilty if I’m not “productive” all the time.
*Allowing the beauty, fashion, and cosmetic industries to make me feel ashamed about aging and looking older.
*Wasting time on the computer when I could use a walk and fresh air.
*Not taking enough time to form well-researched (balanced) political opinions.
*Playing small when I should be aiming higher.
*Expecting more from some people than they are capable of giving.
*Making foolish assumptions before I have gathered all the necessary information.
*Putting up with people who make foolish assumptions before they have gathered all the necessary information.
*Neglecting my feet when I moisturize.
*Not taking time out to meet friends for coffee when I’m invited because it’s easier to stay home in my pajamas and communicate via social media.
*Dwelling on the mistakes I’ve made.
*Dwelling on the mistakes other people have made.
*Apologizing for things that aren’t my fault.
*Failing to notice — and apologize — when I am at fault.
*Clinging to old stuff I need to pitch, which includes just about everything in the attic.
*Forgetting to appreciate what I’ve already accomplished.
*Feeling guilty for reading the books I want to read instead of the ones on the neighborhood book club list.
This is only a start, of course; there are other much-needed improvements I can’t even list here. So, how about you? What will you do differently — or give up — this season? – Cindy La Ferle
To access an earlier Lent reflection from my book, Writing Home, please click here.
— Original artwork (above) by Cindy La Ferle. Please click on the image for a larger view. —