This year, I have a different attitude about Lent. Rather than give up things I love, I want to give up things I don't like.
I can't remember a Lent where I didn't give up something I loved. Whether it was promising to stop annoying my sister as a child (I made it a day or two, if I was lucky), giving up swearing in college, ridding myself of obsessive food thoughts with the liquid Lenten fast of 2008 (thankfully, I only made it 20 days before calling it quits), swearing off sugar in grad school (that was a miserable 40 days!) or caffeine last year (even worse than the sugar!), I was always under the impression that Lent was about sacrificing the things you loved most.**
**For more on the actual meaning of Lent, check out You Version, which offers free guided reading plans & devotionals to guide you through Lent!
This year, I want to do something different.
This Lenten season, I'm giving up ingratitude. As I thought about what I wanted to give up this year, I kept stumbling upon gratitude. Gratitude snuck its way into articles about the keys to happiness and reduced stress, but even more surprising was that it was the star of posts on seemingly unrelated topics like powerful weapons in business and increasing personal productivity. If what these articles were saying was true, gratitude was more than a few thank-yous; it was a typhoon of positivity that poured over every part of a person's life, washing them over with peace, clarity and happiness.
When I reflect on the happiest versions of myself, the one who brings joy, light and laughter to conversations and uplifts those around her, I also see the most grateful version of me. One who finds time to pray before she goes to bed. One who keeps a gratitude journal. One who shows appreciation with affection. One who pauses after some simple act of beauty or kindness finds her way into her life and she remembers to smile and be thankful. My best self is my most grateful self.
This Lent, I'm also giving up unkindess...specifically, to myself. I have no shortage of kindness for others; in fact, sometimes I have too much (even for those who might not seem deserving of it or who can't appreciate it). However, when it comes to myself, I'm a bit harsh. I'd like to describe my tone as comically self-depricating, but I've been told by several people I care about that I could be a whole lot nicer when I talk about myself.
My jabs at myself are a pretty bad habit at this point because up until a few months ago, I didn't even realize how often I put myself down or make fun of myself. The comments are always masked in jest (I even laugh as I say them!), but, thanks to a whole lot of mindfulness practice and some amazing books on shame and vulnerability, I'm starting to see that being unkind to yourself in words can leech into things like your self-worth, self-perception and your self-confidence.
And, if I have the power to show love and kindness to others, I'm certainly capable of extending the same grace and kindness to myself! It's going to take a bit of intentionality and mindfulness to break myself of bad habits, perfectionism and shame-vocabulary, but I'm hopeful that at the end of Lent, I'll have finally gotten rid of things in my life that needed to go.
Do you celebrate Lent? If so, what are you giving up or being mindful of this year?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which mean that if you click on them and buy something on Amazon.com, I receive a small fraction of the purchase price, which I use to pay for things like web hosting and ingredients. I appreciate your support of this blog & thank you for any purchases you make!