Do You Pick Your Lent?

Brent Pittman —  02/18/2015

Each year I pick my Lent. Gross! No, I’m not talking about belly-buttons.

I’m talking about the traditional 40 days of fasting before Easter. Fasting is basically giving up something for a period of time and sometimes involves reflection and prayer.

I don’t practice Catholicism, but I’ve learned to embrace this ancient tradition each year. Why is that?

Why I Practice Lent

1) Helps me focus on what is important: faith, family, friends, fitness, finances.

2) Shows me how I rely on the material world much more than I ought.

3)  Lent has been practiced by many historical role models, who accomplished  much in their lifetime.

4) Teaches me about delayed gratification and saying “no” to myself.

Delayed Gratification

I believe the ability to give up something for a short time, in order to have something more or better in the future is an invaluable skill to develop.

Did you hear about the Stanford marshmallow experiment with kids? Watch a video of the recreated experiment. What would you do?


What I’m Giving up for Lent

I’ll share one ‘vice’ I often give up for Lent. Coffee. It is a ritual steeped in mysticism. Some would even call coffee a miracle drug.

Drug indeed. I find that I sometimes get a headache and moody if I don’t get my ‘fix’ in the morning. It is something that I come to rely on. I don’t want to rely on some liquid in a cup. That’s why I give up coffee each year during Lent.

Will I go back, probably so, that smell is intoxicating…the aroma, the foam on a Peet’s latte…ah must focus!

*I’m substituting chocolate in 2015 since we just had a newborn and I foresee sleepless nights ahead.

Ideas for Fasting During Lent

What can you give up (fast) for Lent? A few ideas to spark your imagination:

  • Time- What do you spend a lot of time on each week? Facebook, TV, News, Angry Birds?
  • Energy- Is there something that sucks up a lot of energy from you each week? Perhaps giving that up for a time period? No, you can’t fast your family.
  • Creativity- Is there an activity that limits your creativity and ability to think deeply?
  • Stomach- This is the easiest and most common activity to give up. Coffee, Chocolate, Butter, etc.
  • Health- Do you endanger your health by doing something each day? Perhaps another candidate for Lent.
  • Relationships- What is keeping you from your important relationships and times of connection to God?

Lent may not be for everyone. If you come from a religious Catholic background, you might have even been forced to practice Lent.

I encourage you to revisit this practice and see if it can be a time of refocusing and reflection for your life.

Will you practice Lent this year? What does Lent mean to you? 

Photo Credit Professor Bop (Creative Commons)

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.
  • Sarah

    I have become vegan, not just for Lent, but for health. I have also stopped gossiping and listening to gossip. It’s difficult, but a clear mind and a clean body are wonderful.

  • jon

    Hard to think about Lent when I have’t even followed through with New Years! Maybe I’ll try to give up procrastinating

  • John@MoneyPrinciple

    Interesting idea. We are not religious at all but one thing that needs to be looked at is refined sugar! (Having said that, I’ve just made an oven-full of meringues with spare egg whites!).

    The idea is that by giving up sugar, our bodies will instead metabolise any fat for energy. Refined sugar is instant energy so chocolate is among the most dangerous of foods – you burn the sugar-energy and lay down the fat for winter which never comes….

  • AverageJoe

    Really an interesting video and discussion of lent. I’m not going to give up the miracle drug (coffee), but I will find something good to give up this year.

    • It’s a great exercise! Coffee is tough, especially the first week.

  • tal2121

    Hmmm…you’re making me think about what I will give up this year…maybe fast food?

    • Glad I got you thinking. What is your fast food fix? McDonalds? Pizza?

      • tal2121

        Actually Thai food! Lol…I’m addicted (well lately). Although I’m in shape and not overweight (I run a lot to keep it off) I know it is not necessarily healthy eating. I love Thai food!

        Giving that up for 40 days will be a challenge, but I think I can do it 🙂

  • I love the principle!

    We rarely realize how dependent we are on certain material things. We all have our vices and they’re nearly impossible to give up.

    They become a way of life and we never really realize we’ve fallen into terrible habits.

    I don’t practice Lent, but I try to be very aware of my short-comings and where I’m changing due to the world that we live in.

    My wife and I don’t have cell phones with internet and we limit our texting. I personally believe this technological advance has truly hindered relationships and has severally damaged the relationships we have with our children, friends, and spouses. Sure, there are some cool things that have come because of it…but watch others when you eat out at a restaurant; it’s pretty crazy to see the lack of human interaction.

    We gave up fast food this year…completely. Fast food simply has become a necessity because we’re lazy, don’t plan, and have placed a chaotic life as a higher priority than living healthy.

    It’s pretty awesome that you observe “Lent” even if you don’t practice Catholicism. If more people did this I believe we’d be more aware of how much we rely on certain things and the change it has brought about in our lives/country (typically for the worse).

    • Jason,

      Thanks for the comment. I love it that you have conviction and back it up with action.

  • Evan,
    Ah. The ability to tell yourself ‘no’. Chocolate is a good candiate for Lent too! 

  • It is interesting that you embrace Lent fasting, yet you aren’t Catholic.  I’m not religious at all, but perhaps I should try giving up something during Lent too.  The only problem I see with this is that it gives you freedom to jump right back on that vice once Lent is over.  So while it might help during the 40 days, once those are over you are practically encouraged to indulge again.

    • Thanks for the continuing comments. I don’t really consider drinking coffee a bad thing. It’s just a symbol I use during Lent to remind myself of  more important things in life. 

      •  No there are a lot worse things out there than a coffee addiction.  It seems like you do somehow think of it as a bad thing if you feel the need to give it up for Lent.  Even if it’s just the daily cost, there must be reasoning why you choose that as a symbol.

  • I’m going to join you and give up five hour energies (hopefully for good.) I’m not a coffee drinker but I take a five hour energy literally everyday. Good luck to you with the coffee.

  • Give up coffee?  I might as well quit breathing for a month!

    • It’s hard at first, but surprisingly I have more energy after a few weeks.