Today is Ash Wednesday, which means it is the start of Lent. It is supposed honor the 40 days Jesus spent wandering the desert, fasting. If you observe this, the done thing is to give up something you enjoy during this time period as a way of emulating the trials and suffering Jesus went through.
Honestly, I don't recall an emphasis on this in my particular (Methodist) church growing up. I'm sure people did it but no one in our family made a big deal about it. All I knew from my Catholic friends was during the weeks leading up to Easter they had to eat fish on Fridays instead of meat. Which I understand even less. And let's not get started on the whole fish-isn't-meat deal.
Anyway. I know a lot of people who aren't religious who still like to give things up for Lent. I have even done it myself from time to time. A little self-sacrifice never hurt anyone, and sometimes it is good to prove to yourself that your vices don't run your life. At least for 40 days.
I guess I've gotten to the point where I don't understand how giving up something you find enjoyable for 40 days is in any way a penance if you are going to go right back to the habit at the end of it. Sure, giving up smoking for Lent is a noble deed, but if you know you are going to smoke an entire pack as soon as it hits Easter Sunday, then really what have you proven? Any good you may have done at any point is completely undone the second that lighter hits that cigarette tip.
I guess maybe my issue goes deeper than just giving something up for a little while. Because fasting/cleansing in and of itself isn't a bad thing. Maybe it goes in to the fact where I have issues with religions just assuming we're all sinners up to no good and any little pleasure we get out of the small things just damns us further into Hell.
This year, instead of giving up chocolate, fried foods, television or any other vice that you're going to pick up again on day 41, give up the things that are truly bogging you down. This year, turn off that Inner Negative Monologue for 40 days. See how it feels to go without that for a while and I can guarantee you'll not invite that back into your life.
We sometimes seem to forget that there are so many more things we can invite out of our life that will increase our happiness exponentially. Why give up chocolate if it makes you happy? Give up something that makes you miserable.
Then at the of those 40 days, see how much lighter you feel. Isn't that the point? The feeling of lightness that comes from easing your load? Isn't that what Jesus' message was? Let me have your burden. I will carry it for you.
I somehow doubt Jesus thought chocolate was a burden.
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