They're giving up feul for the fire of misery that threatens to consume them every day. That isn't to say it isn't difficult, only that what they're sacrificing is something any loving diety would gladly have them give up forever.
It got me thinking, though... what if, instead of looking for something we could easily do without, we all gave up something that's subtle, but damaging. (Hey, if Christmas can be a non-religeous, commercial holiday, why can't Lent?) I'm not talking about smoking or alcohol. We all know those things are bad for us, and, despite your best intentions, you know by the end of tommorow you'll be sucking down twice the nicotine you would have yesterday. Here are a couple of things that would fit into what I'm talking about:
- Self-depreciating language: a lot of people I know (especially women) say things like, "Man, my butt's big" or "God, I'm stupid". When you hear something over and over, it becomes true... at least in your head. What if this month, you made specific effort to say, instead, "I'm not going to eat out this week, and by Sunday, I bet these jeans will fit better!" or, "Well that wasnt the brightest thing I've done all day! Won't be doing that again!"
- Treating service staff like they're machines: If you've ever been in the service industry, you know that there are customers who are ass holes because they really do mean to go after you, and there are customers who are ass holes because they just don't seem to realize that you're a human being. Sure, leaving a solid tip is a compliment to wait staff, but nothing makes up for treating a person like they aren't worth the effort to make eye contact or speak directly to. When you're going through the checkout line at the grocery store, make a specific effort to look up from your wallet, smile at the girl, and respond to her, "Have a nice day!" with a, "Hey, you too!" It takes minimal effort on your part, and it might make her day.
- Saying, "Because I said so, that's why" to your kids: I'll never understand why parents do this. It makes sense to me that you'd want to encourage your children to ask questions when they don't understand something, rather than just blindly obey. It also makes sense to me that when they say, "Why?", that if you don't have an answer, then maybe you should rethink your initial response. There's a reason they can't do something, or should do something. Telling them the reason helps them develop their logic and reasoning skills, and it makes them free thinkers. Which sounds better?
- "I can't ride my bike through traffic because cars can't always see me and I could get hurt." OR
- "I can't ride my bike through traffic because mom said so... but she's not looking right now..."
- Not taking the time to kiss your spouse good morning and good night: If you're not doing this you should be. Did you know that couples who kiss each other "hello" and "good bye" live longer? A quick kiss conveys so many things: I love you, I appreciate you, I'll be thinking of you while I'm gone/I thought of you all day. It's so important, and so easy... there's really no reason not to.
- Not waving to your neighbors when you're both in the yard at the same time: Again, how difficult is it to raise your hand, wiggle it a little, smile, and say, "Hey, Bob!" Do you even know your neighbor's name? If the only time you talk to them is when their dog is barking, you're missing a golden opportunity. People are much more apt to be courteous of your space, physical and mental, when they have a connection to you. I bet if you'd taken the time to get to know Bob a little, to stop and talk to him, ask him about his wife, congratulate him for his kid getting accepted to that prestigeous college, that he'd be a lot more inclined to bring his dog in when it barks, BEFORE you have to ask, simply because he knows you. Today's a great day to make that connection, don't you think?
- Telling your dog, "Go lay down" every time he comes up to be petted: Dogs are physical manifestations of unconditional love. They are always happy to see you, always content to listen to you babble on about how difficult your day is, or how much of a pain in the butt your significant other is being today, or how worried you are that you're going to get laid off. They never judge, even when you're wrong. All they ask in return is a warm, safe, dry place to sleep, enough food and water to sustain themselves, and a little attention now and then. Beyond that, playing with dogs makes you live a longer, happier, healthier life. How cool is that?