I gave up the word can’t, originally to keep myself from wiggling into laziness while working on an exercise program. I wanted to prevent myself from making excuses why I can’t workout at a given time. But I was also dieting and found I was constantly telling myself what I can’t eat, so I had to think twice about how to look at my diet. By using a selective word choice, saying won’t instead of can’t, I felt empowered. When I say I can’t eat certain foods, it’s as if I’m being controlled by this horrible thing we call a diet and it was a relentless struggle. But in saying I won’t eat these things it made me realize that I was making a conscious choice and becoming the boss of my eating habits, not the other way around.
My life is saturated with fear. Fear of my past, of my future. Fear of who I am – and am not. Fear of what I have done and what I have not done. Jesus says to the disciples, “Be not afraid.” Over and over, he tells them this, for they are bound by fear. I offered up ‘fear’ from my internal vocabulary during a time when I was hospitalized for a compulsive illness that had wrapped its insidious tendrils around my soul and body. When I was no longer clutching fear, I had the freedom to cling to Christ. As I brought my affliction into the light, I was given clarity to see that God’s mercy is sustenance enough for my need. This offering is a practice: imperfect and incomplete. As I slowly begin to heal, I must give my fear to God, over and over. Yet I know it is Jesus’ words in my heart, patient and abiding: “Be not afraid.”
I’ve decided to give up ‘sacrifice’ for Lent. For too long in my life the word was synonymous with failing to pay attention to my own genuine needs and concerns. Perhaps this is a shadow side of being the oldest male in my family; my role has been to be the oak that supports the structure of our lives. One of the corrosive dimensions of failing to be honest about my own needs, fears and struggles is anger and resentment towards others when they make legitimate claims on me. My anger surprises and hurts them; even my closest family and friends have been casualties.
So, for Lent I’m giving up ‘sacrifice’ if that means ignoring what is going on in my heart, mind and soul. I’m learning that when I do this, no one’s needs are legitimately met and we become less ourselves.
Richard, Vancover BC
I am a divorced Dad, who looks after my eleven year daughter half-time, with a full-time job who likes to give her a good Christmas. This year I gave up “Have-To” over Christmas and had a better Christmas. I cut out trying to be super-Dad. I did not buy or have-to buy a big tree but got a small tree, a foot shorter than my tall daughter. It was a lot easier, fitted in the car, required half as many lights and was not overwhelming to decorate. The tree is a fluffy looking spruce and so fluffy, instead of big, became the celebratory theme for Christmas.
The word I gave up was “me”. I found that, with “me” gone, it also took “I” and “mine” with it. Since nature abhors a vacuum what filled the space left by the disappearance of me, I and mine?
God. That was a pretty good trade.
As a child, my much-older sister often called me “stupid.” My parents’ silence seemed to imply agreement. “Stupid” didn’t denote “unintelligent,” but an emotionally fiery mixture of foolish, wrong, and totally worthless. “Stupid” scalded me and made me feel desperate. Over time, I learned to think “stupid” whenever I made a mistake, when I felt socially inadequate, when I feared rejection.
Thank God, the Brothers invited me to fast from “stupid.” I had not realized how much power the very word held over me. Fasting from “stupid” is a tremendous boost; it requires me to examine and reframe. Maybe my idea was “impractical.” Perhaps I was “mistaken,” even “misunderstood.” Possibly, I was just “being human.” No destructive fire there.
I believe that by abstaining from “stupid” I honor God by learning to accept that I am His handiwork, just as I am. I want to keep this fast forever!
Jesus advises the disciples, “Do not worry about tomorrow,” observing that God already knows what we need and will not fail to take care of us. But our faith often is not strong enough to let us give up worry so easily. No matter how determined we are to set worry aside and be thankful for the blessings God showers upon us, worry creeps back in when we’re not looking. We have to give it up over and over again. Over time, it gets easier to turn first to God and leave worry behind. God really does know what we need.
Giving up the word “Love” for Lent seems antithetical. Isn’t love the heart of Christianity? But we need to ask what it means “to give up”? Does it mean “to renounce” – or could it mean “to remember and honour”? Could the silencing of such an essential word be a way of marking it with reverence?
My choice to give up the word “Love” is an attempt to release God from my suppositions and hold myself before God without the pretense of knowing what it means to observe a holy Lent. Giving up everything, even “Love”, and waiting in the silence, I step into the unknown. How will the silent path open before me that I might better love?
Need slips effortlessly from my mouth – most commonly in the phrases “you need…” or “I need…”
I failed to eliminate need from my vocabulary for ten days. Awareness is arriving. Clearly Need is a sloppy thought habit inaccurately expressing what I desire to communicate.
Inside failure dwells:
Arrogance – as though I could know what another person requires.
Misplaced imperative – “I need to eat” rather than “I am hungry”
Inattention to truthful experience. “I need a break” could mean I fear the anger I feel towards my work situation and want to get away; my body is fatigued because I over-worked and did not rest; I have a strong attraction to ____ who is committed to another.
Humor abides in the speed with which my mind can avoid discovering what I am really thinking or feeling – “this paragraph needs to end”.
I prefer not to experience failure.
I chose the word hurry to give up. When I decided this would be the word, I realized I usually used it first with my teenage son trying to get him ready for school each morning. It doesn’t help him or me and I’ve noticed that it often sets the tone for the rest of his day and mine.
Letting go of hurry makes me more aware of how it shapes my view of the day’s events. Hurry leads me to poor choices about where I place my attention.
Hurry robs me of my ability to be fully present. In a hurry, I am either oriented to the past or the future, thus unaware of the holiness in the present moment.
Giving up hurry has made me more present to God and God’s creation. Without hurry, I’m free to stop, look and listen to the wonder about me.