Lent: take it or leave it?

To bother, or not to bother: that is the question. I’ll be frank here: why on earth does anyone voluntarily participate in Lent? Why sacrifice something so dear to us for forty long days (and forty long nights). More so, if you’re not remotely religious, why do it at all? Most so-called sacrifices end up going in the same direction those New Year’s Resolutions took anyway.

Back in my church-going days as a primary school innocent, the vicar at my church described Lent to us in a way that almost made it sound worthwhile. He said that Lent had become so much about giving up, that we now all see it as an unsolicited sacrifice – instead, he believed we should see it as a time to make “positive change”. No judgements as to what this positive change has to be but it could be something as simple as fewer library vending-machine Diet Cokes (guilty!), kicking a habit like social-smoking or even picking back up a hobby that you may have been neglecting recently without realising it.

Although, is there something to be said for the act of going without? While heroic may be a slight over-exaggeration, it can definitely help us appreciate our privileged position of not having to go without our most favourite things for 365 days a year for years on end. Restricting ourselves (and to not exactly a huge extent) can help us regain a perspective for those who are less fortunate whilst at the same time kicking bad habits and/or starting anew.

If you plan to follow the rules the way Christian’s do, then each Sunday during Lent is actually considered a day to feast rather than fast – so if you’re struggling to stick to your new positive change, at least there’s a bit of leeway for a day off (or four). If you’re not so keen on the act of giving up, then there is the Lent Positive Acts Challenge. Self-explanatory but you simply make a conscious effort to do one good deed a day throughout Lent. For those of us dreading forty days without sugar or crisps, this is an alternative route to take.

Traditionally during Lent, meat is given up every Friday; if you’ve been trying (and failing) at implementing meat-free Mondays into your weekly routine, this could be a good time to see if you can gently transition into a lesser-meat diet all whilst doing your bit in the sustainability crisis we now face. Saving the world, one less burger at a time.

Oddly enough, Lent has no real connection to fasting anyway. Lent actually translates to ‘spring season’ – however once it became linked to Easter, it was soon intrinsically linked to fasting in the run up to a momentous feast.  In simple terms, Lent is about resisting temptation and stripping it back to basics, so we are more appreciative of all that we have. On that basis, it seems to me to be a good reason for us to partake in such a forgotten tradition.

Image credit:*superhoop* via Flickr

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