In American society, people are told by the mass media to look out for themselves, indulge themselves regularly and put themselves above all else. Self is the number one priority – and to a certain extent, this is true. If people do not take care of themselves, they cannot function properly from day to day. And it’s perfectly fine for people to take the time to pamper themselves if life has been giving them a harsh beating.
However, sometimes denying one’s wants and desires can feel even better than indulging in them. Rather than being a slave to objects and behaviors, exhibiting some sort of control and willpower over them can be empowering. This is what I have rediscovered while celebrating Lent, the season in which Christians prepare for Easter.
Doing without during Lent is meant to illuminate other things. By making shifts in behavior during the six and a half weeks of Lent, followers of Christ are able to fully focus on Him. Other parts of Lent seem to come easier to most people – tithing and praying? Yep, that’s doable. But denying one’s wants – forget about it.
No one ever said sacrifice was easy – it isn’t supposed to be. Many people may decide to give up certain things, such as drinking alcohol, eating their favorite food or watching their favorite TV show because it makes the sacrifice substantial. And since humans are creatures of habit, it can be hard to take something out of a routine. The difficulty of giving up something is also multiplied when everyone else is partaking.
In years past, I would try to give up several things at a time in an effort to be a Lenten overachiever. In the end, though, I would end up dropping the ball on all but one of the things I had given up. Realizing the need to simplify this year, I decided to give up one thing and do it well, so I gave up going on my computer at night after work. I usually end up spending hours upon hours mindlessly watching random videos on YouTube.com. I figured it would be a good idea to stop, as I could use that time instead to pray, or maybe sleep. So far, giving up the computer has been mostly successful – I have given in twice to going online at night. One of those times was to fill out my NCAA Tournament bracket.
In my daily activities, I’ve tried to deny myself of my wants as much as possible. Not by totally giving up things like alcohol or cheeseburgers, but just asking myself if I really need the certain thing I’m wanting. In doing without these little things, such as a late night drive-thru snack or the car radio, I’ve found that I don’t really need them – I only thought I did. It is amazing how a person’s mind can have such a powerful hold over them; tricking them into thinking they need their vices. Lent serves as a powerful reminder of this.
It seems that the main goal is to be mentally stronger than these vices, not just for the sake of spiritual health, but physical health as well. It is these vices that, when coupled with an addictive personality, can break a person. Again, it’s not wrong to indulge every now and then – but before you do, ask yourself, “Do I really need this, or do I just think I need it?”
Amanda Whitsitt is a seniormajoring in mass communications.