Lent should be about more than just giving something up


Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is a 40 day period of growing closer to God through fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

During Lent, which began on February 22 this year, millions of Christians work to grow closer to God in the 40 days leading up to Easter.

At the start of Lent, many choose to give something up in order to resonate with the sacrifice that Jesus made when he fasted in the desert for 40 days. Participating in this ritual allows people the chance to reflect on and appreciate the gifts in their life. However, many casually give up something for Lent without understanding the deeper intention behind it, which defeats the purpose.

When setting a Lenten goal, it’s important that the intention is rooted in becoming closer to God. If you were to give up something like eating sweets solely based on aspirations to lose weight, that loses sight of the true reason for this seasonal fasting. While the act of giving up sweets may help you improve your health and habits, the purpose should be to remain mindful of Jesus’ sacrifice, not just to be motivated by personal goals.

Part of the purpose of fasting is to show self-discipline against temptation. If you give up something that is easy to resist, you are not fully experiencing that sort of sacrifice and commemoration. For example, if you were to give up drinking soda, but you don’t usually drink that much soda, you are not truly challenging yourself or attempting to understand Jesus’ suffering. You shouldn’t be giving something up just to give it up.

However, that is not to say that it is bad to give up common things like sweets, social media or coffee, just that you should know why you are doing it. By choosing to fast from something that is important in your day-to-day life, you may find that you don’t actually need it as much as you think you do. This can bring a refreshing perspective. Additionally, fasting from bad patterns in one’s life, like being late or spending too much money, can allow you to reset and become a better version of yourself that is more in God’s image.

Fasting is not the only way to turn toward God during Lent. Another method of living how God wants is practicing kindness and almsgiving. Perhaps you decide to give a compliment to someone every day, or you make it a goal to be kinder to yourself through self-care. Or, maybe you volunteer at a local charity for a certain number of hours each weekend. With so much focus on fasting, this other element of Lent, known as almsgiving, is often not as recognized.

These goals focused on enrichment, rather than deprivation demonstrating the idea of change during this season. Personally, I find this type of Lenten goal to be more fulfilling than fasting from something in my life because it encourages me to reflect on how I treat others. Giving up something like chocolate may be a good choice for your health, and undoubtedly teaches discipline, but choosing to work on moral development during this time is perhaps more beneficial.

Making an effort to not just take something away from your life, but also add something, like kindness or generosity, helps you become more representative of God’s goodness. Ultimately,  Lenten promises should be something you look forward to and strive to achieve, not something you dread having to endure. There is still time during Lent to reflect on the meaning of your fasting and take actions that grow your connection with God.