I am not a religious person. I had very few religious friends growing up and was indifferent to their beliefs. Despite being exposed to religion (I attended church and Sunday school until I was 13), I never adopted the church’s beliefs because none of it made sense to me. But I am not here to discuss the existence of God or dabble in the finer points of religion: I am here to talk about Lent.
Unlike my peers in Sunday school, I chose not to participate in the traditional giving up of an important part of my life for forty days to symbolize a story we’d read in class. While my peers suffered for a month and a half without candy or other childish extravagances, I calmly continued my life as usual, indulging in the things they could not and feeling an odd sense of satisfaction as I did. I was not raised to believe in the Bible; my parents brought us to church every week in a passive attempt to break my sister and me away from the television for a few hours while still living up to their parents’ expectations that they raise their children to be religious. Thus, Lent never meant anything to me. I understood the story in the Bible, but I did not see why my life should be affected by something that I only recognized as a work of fiction.
At Gonzaga, I have found that most, if not all, of my friends hold some sort of religious beliefs. Lent is now a more prominent part of my life than ever despite my not partaking in it. To be quite honest, however, I would not have known about it starting this year but for the countless Facebook statuses proclaiming, “I am giving up Facebook for Lent,” or “No more dessert until Easter!” I can name what most people are giving up even if they haven’t done this or I’ve never spoken to them: the news of what others give up is apparently fierce gossip at a Catholic school. Let me discuss the two categories of things of which I have heard of people giving up:
The things that people give up for Lent seem to be either indulgences or addictions. Indulgences include things like dessert, eating out, and partying (yes, I did hear of this one from an actual person). These are things that one doesn’t really need in one’s life to begin with; these are things that one adds to create pleasure. Often they are privileges that one is granted. These are ignorant things to give up for Lent. Abstinence from superfluous items in one’s life does not make one a better person. In many cases, others do not even partake in these things to begin with. And what happens when Lent ends? The superfluity begins again and one may once again indulge in something of which one deprived oneself for 40 days. Gluttony and destroying one’s body are free to run rampant for another 11 months.
Addictions are vast and numerous but usually include favorite foods, drinks, or activities (such as Facebook). Now, may I ask, why would one attempt to cease from exposing oneself to something to which one claims one is addicted? If one is truly addicted, then one would not be able to last for the full 40 days without this thing. And if one lasts the 40 days, what then? One will either immediately return to one’s old habits, thus proving only stamina and not the willingness to give it up, or cease the activity entirely, which only proves that it was an awful choice of something to give up. If one is able to come out of Lent and continue giving up the thing one chose, then all one did was use Lent as an excuse to break one’s addiction, making the choice to give it up completely meaningless. Why not choose another time to break the addiction and leave Lent to something one will actually want back by the time Easter comes, something that will not make one superfluous again?
My aim is not to denigrate anyone’s beliefs. Rather, I implore someone to come up with something given up for Lent that does not fit into either of these categories and let me know what it is, as I am very eager to hear it.