Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Giving up bitterness for Lent

Lent only happened 7 months ago, no big deal. Here's something I *meant* to publish back in March.

I've never seen the point in giving up sweets for Lent (or anything else for that matter, it's just that in my social circles sweets always seemed the go-to choice). Now I guess for the folks who do, well you're living a healthier lifestyle than I am, but, physical health aside I've never seen that giving up sweets would somehow help me grow closer to God. The closest I ever came to altering my life during Lent was in 2009, when I attempted to make 40 donations in 40 days (I ended up stopping halfway through).

For 2015, I felt inspired to try something new, to give up something, the act of which might actually help me grow in my faith and grow closer to God:

I gave up bitterness. (or at least, gave my best effort at doing so)

It wasn't necessarily a conscious thought each day; I kept intending to write myself a recurring reminder but never got around to it. This was more than a checklist item, though - it was a mindset change, a choice that "I'm not going to dwell on things that make me frustrated/angry." This meant releasing anger it as quickly as possible, whether from a dumb driver, world injustices, or interpersonal conflict with a friend or coworker. From the small to the major, I would refuse to allow bitterness to gain a foothold in my spirit.

Establishing that mindset for even the first couple days proved enough to change the course of my entire Lenten experience. For one, I noticed I was much happier; the new attitude helped me maintain my even-keel, maybe even an upward-trending emotional state. Now that's not to say I never got angry, it's just that I'd do my little forehead flick thing (like Glinda from Wicked), and say "it's gone, it's Your problem now God. I will not dwell on this anymore, I will not let it consume me, and I will not waste any more emotional energy on it."

I found this to be a much more rewarding experience than my previous Lenten journeys, and I had hoped it would be habit-formed so as to continue. What I've discovered since then is that, like all emotional and spiritual journeys, there are ebbs, and I must continually remind myself (such as right now, as I'm writing this), to actively choose this path.

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