What to give up for Lent?
February 28, 2006 8:34 AM   Subscribe

What to give up for Lent?

Lent starts tomorrow and I want to give up something significant that won't cause problems for friends and family (e.g. meat & alcohol due to social commitments). Any good Lenten ideas?
posted by Huw to Religion & Philosophy (42 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by clearlynuts at 8:37 AM on February 28, 2006

Things like dessert/chocolate are pretty inocuous to others, but might be a significant enough sacrifice for you.
posted by penchant at 8:37 AM on February 28, 2006

There's also the option of taking something on, maybe developing a good habit of doing something you don't do now that just requires a little time every day: stretching in the morning, sending a "thinking of you" message to people you've been out of touch with, cleaning out that ___ you've been avoiding.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:38 AM on February 28, 2006

Unnecessary Internet surfing. TV. Soft drinks. Candy.

A few years back, I took time to read the book of Psalms over the 40 days. That wasn't bad.
posted by heatherann at 8:40 AM on February 28, 2006

Response by poster: Religion already given up - ironically I never observed Lent when I was a Christian.

TV is a good idea but, again, anti-social (ridiculous on the face of it, but actively not watching TV when someone else is isn't easy. If that makes sense).
posted by Huw at 8:41 AM on February 28, 2006

the priest in my parish recommends giving up something that either diverts your focus from your own spiritual health or that diverts you from your ability to meet the tenets of faith. if booze makes you mean-spirited and uncharitable toward your fellow man, give it up to see if you can develop a more generous spirit toward what you see as the failings of people around you. if civilization IV means you no longer spend saturdays at the food bank, give it up so you can rededicate some of your time to the needs of your community.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:45 AM on February 28, 2006

>>(meat & alcohol due to social commitments).

What am I missing here?
posted by naxosaxur at 8:45 AM on February 28, 2006

I think it would really depend on what would represent a sacrifice of something non-essential to you, and only you know the answer to that. But off the top of my head, this could include:

- television
- daily latte
- cursing
- junk food

Generically I suppose it could be anything that you feel you overindulge in and would not be a burden on another person if you were to stop doing it for a month.
posted by contessa at 8:47 AM on February 28, 2006

Any and all forms of temperance.
posted by weirdoactor at 8:51 AM on February 28, 2006

Response by poster: Naxosaur, the meat & alcohol thing is: 1) I'm sure my wife doesn't want to go veggie for 40 days, 2) the same with drink, and also because I have a number of dinner parties & arrangements where I don't want to be a killjoy.

The 'best' sacrifices are those that no-one else is affected negatively by (or even knows about).
posted by Huw at 8:53 AM on February 28, 2006

Religion already given up - ironically I never observed Lent when I was a Christian.

When I was more Catholicky than I am now, I used to give up things I'd never partaken of, thus making the Lenten season something of a cake walk.

This year, for no particular reason, I'm using tomorrow to get my (expanding) arse back to the gym, so I'd second the idea of starting something, rather than giving something up. Note also I'm planning on using the guilt planted by heatherann to add a few extra sets of lat pulldowns. Thanks heatherann.
posted by jalexei at 8:54 AM on February 28, 2006

I had a long post ready regarding the religious foundations of Lenten sacrifice, but it turns out you're not approaching this from a Christian standpoint. Bah!

Maybe for Lent I can give up this bizarre atheist's pride in intimate knowledge of the tenets of Catholicism.
posted by S.C. at 9:02 AM on February 28, 2006

I will say this: not to rag on contessa, but a sacrifice of something non-essential is hardly a sacrifice at all.

Also: abstaining from alcohol doesn't necessarily make you a killjoy. There are some good points to that effect in this thread.
posted by S.C. at 9:05 AM on February 28, 2006

I agree with the "take something on" -- we always had to (re: our parents made us) give somthing up, and do something positive. The something was always candy (thus making us anticipate Easter and the candy it brings); the something positive varied. Sometimes it was "rice bowls" - giving money to the poor. Sometimes it was an individual goal - thank someone each day, hug someone each day, spend time with grandma each day, whatever. I still approach it that way.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:06 AM on February 28, 2006


Something more challenging would be to make a point of always listening properly (I mean really properly) to your wife for 40 days.
posted by teleskiving at 9:10 AM on February 28, 2006

Response by poster: S.C. - please post it!

I likewise find interesting (and often helpful) the structure of religion. Lent has special resonance because of it's history and intentions. It's not just giving up chocolate for a month.
posted by Huw at 9:11 AM on February 28, 2006

I gave up unnecessary spending/shopping one year. Hardest 40 days of my life. Basicially had to limit shopping to groceries and toiletries. Whether or not that would be a sacrifice for you, I do not know.
posted by ferociouskitty at 9:11 AM on February 28, 2006

posted by jamesonandwater at 9:26 AM on February 28, 2006

How can we possibly answer this if we do not know your vices? Since you're male, masturbation's always a safe bet, I guess.

How can we possibly answer this question for you?
posted by jdroth at 9:34 AM on February 28, 2006

Huw—It went a little something like this:

You should give up something you'll miss: television, your morning mocha, porn, whatever. The purpose of Lenten sacrifice is to bring one closer to God by identifying with Christ's suffering on the Cross. The difficulty of caffeine withdrawl, frustration at missing the next month of Lost, etc. should bring to mind Jesus' sacrifice; out of that, one should engage in prayer and reflection on the meaning of that sacrifice, that He died for our sins..

The Christian purpose of Lent isn't self-improvement, but improvement of one's relationship with God: take the money intended for that coffee and donate it to charity; spend your scheduled TV-/porn-watching time in prayer and meditation. Sacrifice that money, that time, that pleasure, and in doing so, reflect.

(Disclaimer: lapsed Catholic, deeply atheist, consummate perfectionist.)
posted by S.C. at 9:40 AM on February 28, 2006

posted by Wild_Eep at 9:41 AM on February 28, 2006

Response by poster: jdroth: of course you can't know my vices and give me an answer of a plate. It's impossible.

I was more hoping for ideas beyond the obvious. Either suggestions (heatherann's is good) or tangential things that are difficult, make a difference, or are surprising.
posted by Huw at 9:43 AM on February 28, 2006

Response by poster: ON a plate, even.
posted by Huw at 9:46 AM on February 28, 2006

Rather than giving up all meat, perhaps you could just give up red meat? (I, and I understand nutritionists, define "red meat" as "the meat of any mammal," no matter how much the National Pork Board would like you to believe otherwise.) This may or may not be a sacrifice for you, depending on how much you eat it normally. It may or may not be compatible with your social obligations, depending on the precise nature of those.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:46 AM on February 28, 2006

How about giving up your free time and volunteering at a shelter/church/charity/library?
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 9:50 AM on February 28, 2006

Volunteering is much better than some self-centered sacrifice. Look into a worthwhile program, who knows, if you like it it might last longer than 40 days.

I also think you should give up meat for 40 days, it's easy to do and it wouldn't necessarily inconvenience your wife [maybe you could learn to cook for yourself].
posted by cloeburner at 9:57 AM on February 28, 2006

And if people think you're a killjoy for not drinking then you must live in a frat house.
posted by cloeburner at 9:57 AM on February 28, 2006

I have been trying to come up with an idea for Lent for myself. After reading this thread, I think it's "shopping".

(I was raised Catholic, and rarely participated in this Lent tradition as a kid/young adult. Now that I am part of a Protestant church that doesn't talk about giving something up for Lent at all, I do it every year. I have given up caffeine, fast food, candy...)
posted by clh at 10:18 AM on February 28, 2006

Consider giving up carbs as "sugar." I'm actually not a huge Atkins person or anything but I do find that I'm totally hooked on carb-rich foods and binge on them just like some folks do on ice cream. It could be an interesting health experiment in addition to a sacrifice for the occasion.

Also: folks who chimed in early to give up religion = wisecracking assholes. Oh I know, you superior jerks were serious, not joking. But you seriously don't get AskMe.
posted by scarabic at 10:31 AM on February 28, 2006

is God forgetful? a little absent-minded?

At home you see a lot of people who give up booze "except on St Patricks Day" :)
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2006

Do you drive a lot? Maybe not playing the radio in the car would be good, because then you could spend the time thinking. TV would be great for the same reason, if the people you live with would join you. You might even find yourself not wanting it back after Easter, when the weather will be nicer anyway. Giving up alcohol shouldn't really affect anyone but you. Every place that has alcohol has non-alcoholic drinks.
posted by leapingsheep at 11:26 AM on February 28, 2006

If you are a christian and are trying to improve your relationship with God by giving something up then what the hell is the deal with only sticking to it for 40 days, is God forgetful? a little absent-minded?

You seem to be under the misapprehension that the things one gives up for lent are things that are "wrong" or "sinful." Such things, naturally, should be given up, but not only for lent. The things one gives up for lent--meat, candy, drinking even in moderation--are not things that are wrong in themselves.

Please re-read S.C.'s comment in full. It is not that God is forgetful; it is that we are forgetful.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:36 AM on February 28, 2006

DA: My comment was in reference to "the priest in my parish recommends giving up something that either diverts your focus from your own spiritual health or that diverts you from your ability to meet the tenets of faith" etc

And you just have to ask "Do you honestly think God gives a flying fig?" I would be stunned if I met him in heaven and he was sitting there keeping track...
posted by Cosine at 11:38 AM on February 28, 2006

I would be stunned if I met him in heaven and he was sitting there keeping track

You're completely missing the point.

I find the number of people here who began to observe Lent after they lapsed away from the Church fascinating. I'm the same way; I never observed Lent when I considered myself a Catholic but I observe it now as a Christ-was-a-great-man-but-not-the-son-of-God-and-maybe-there-isn't-a-God-anyway agnostic.
posted by jesourie at 11:58 AM on February 28, 2006

Mod note: a few comments removed, if you want to make religion jokes or wisecrack suggestions, do it in MetaTalk or over email
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:06 PM on February 28, 2006

I can't believe my response that giving up religion was removed by big brother. I was not joking, I can't think of a better way to improve your personal relationship with God than to remove religion from the picture, the amount of censorship coming from the admins is getting insane.
posted by Cosine at 12:30 PM on February 28, 2006

note: Ask MetaFilter is as useful as you make it. Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers. Thanks.

That seems pretty clear. Heck I even apologize for my wisecrack (giving up any and all forms of temperance). It wasn't helpful.

The noise vs. helpful answer ratio on Ask is louder than any argument about censorship, in my humble.
posted by weirdoactor at 12:35 PM on February 28, 2006

Caveat: Semi active Roman Catholic who is taking classes to be received into the US Episcopalian church. So, I've been surrounded by the God stuff lately.

One of the purposes of Lent is to strengthen and deepen your relation to God and Christ, and to prepare for His death and resurrection. This can be accomplished either by giving up something that separates you from God, or to take on a practice that will get you closer to God. I know people that don't give up any vices, but do more spiritual work - praying the Rosary once a day, or the complete Daily Office, reading through the New Testament, or charity work. Many do a combination of giving up something and taking on a spiritual practice that they didn't do before. The important thing is to eliminate or take on a practice with dedication to God in mind, not for it's own sake. It should feel like a sacrifice, but not a punishment.

Personally, I'm giving up video games - XBox, computer, etc. Instead, I'm using that time to read more, preferably religious and spiritual works.

So, to make it short, you *don't* have to give up anything to have a successful Lent - instead, think of taking something on, like more prayer or talking to God. Those count as Lenten practices as well. Sorry for the length.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:42 PM on February 28, 2006

Cosine has a point. Giving up a belief in organised religion has done more for my relationship with God than anything ly else. The church (pick a church, any church) has done much damage in the name of God.

Lent is not about giving up something you 'know' you shouldn't be doing. Lent is about remembering the sacrifices that the Son of God made for people who didn't even believe He was/is the Son of God. The best way to do that, many people believe, is to make some sacrifice yourself. Whether that means giving up or adding something depends on who you are.

From a practical standpoint, the Church really pushed Lent and Lenten diet restrictions when there really wasn't much besides grains and dried fruits to eat. They were putting a 'holy face' on the fact that by March the larders were pretty bare anyway, and all that was left was fish, a little dried meat, maybe a side of bacon. The hens had often stopped laying due to poor feed, the cows and goats were dry for the same reason, etc.

FWIW, I'm going with what a Catholic parish a couple of towns over is doing for Lent. They're encouraging buying nothing but food/health/safety items. I'm going to stretch that a little bit, because I've got a couple of family birthdays during Lent, and an aunt in hospital.

raised Deist; nominal Methodist, Deist in practice
posted by jlkr at 1:58 PM on February 28, 2006

Second metafilter :p
posted by devilsbrigade at 3:37 PM on February 28, 2006

Or the islamic way

No eat, no drink (nothing other than saliva going throurgh your throat) and no sex from sunrise untill sunset :)

no no it's not that hard, only the first day is hard then it goes well :)
posted by zouhair at 5:25 PM on February 28, 2006

zouhair mostly beat me to it, at least by implication. If your intent is to spend the time forcing yourself to focus on God, etc., then go extreme without risking your health. (If, OTOH, you're looking to put on a show, go without, I dunno, beer or sex or crackers-with-your-soup or something, but then you run into that whole left-hand/right-hand antibiblical thing about who's watching, etc.)

Do you have some minor eccentricity about yourself you'd like to change? (FWIW, I'm thinking more along the lines of nailbiting than this-means-other-issues things like glory holes in a high school locker room.) Change it for Lent. You come out a "better person" and spend the 40 days in the metaphorical desert becoming more spiritually aware.

Devout atheist here, but I was (raised) Catholic. I do feel the season, but there's nothing I like better on a Lenten Friday than a bag of pork rinds followed by a steak dinner. I gave up fish for Lent one year, and I've never looked back.
posted by phrits at 7:36 PM on February 28, 2006

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