The period of Lent is coming up on the Christian calendar. It is an important and somber time for many people. But what if you are not religious or believe in another religion? You can still benefit from the sacrifices and attitudes Christians experience during this period. Keep reading to learn why and how everyone should observe Lent.
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What is Lent?
We should start at the beginning. For those who did not grow up in a Catholic or Christian household, Lent begins 40 days before Easter on Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter Sunday. During this period, Christians honor the time when Jesus fasted in a desert for 40 days by replicating his sacrifices. It is a time to give up things you enjoy as a way of repenting for your sins. The day before Lent is called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. This is the day when you binge on the thing you will give up for Lent before you have to give it up. Traditionally, this celebration was more practical, using up the meat and other foods that weren't allowed during Lent so they wouldn't go to waste. Want to learn more? Coloring Lent: An Adult Coloring Book for the Journey to Resurrection is both a fun way to destress and a way to learn about the religious origins of Lent. Check it out here.
How Is Lent Observed?
There are many different ways to observe Lent depending on what church you go to. Catholics are more strict in their rules, as they do not eat meat on Fridays and eat less food than usual (typically one meal per day). Other Christian churches believe that each person should give up something that they personally like to make the sacrifice harder. Many people give up indulgent foods and drinks like candy or alcohol or undesirable behaviors like going out to eat or biting their nails.
Why Should I Observe Lent?
Many people around the world who are not Christians or not religious at all observe Lent for a number of reasons. Even if you do not believe in God or Jesus, Lent can be a time of self-reflection and personal growth. If you decide to observe Lent this year, you may discover emotions you had buried or power you never knew you had.
It Allows You To Grieve
Christians spend the period of Lent grieving Jesus' death. Easter celebrates Jesus rising from the dead, but much of the time before that was filled with sorrow. Even if you do not believe in the Christian religion, taking a short period of time to deal with any grief you may be carrying can be healthy. Today, people expect us to bury our sadness deep inside of us and act like we are fine. Whether it is a small thing like not getting a promotion to something big like a family death, open grief is not looked upon positively, so many of us never come to terms with it. You can read more about this phenomenon in It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand.
This year, take the period of Lent to properly address anything you may need to mourn. After you do some self-discovery to find out what you need to grieve, take the steps to deal with it. Need some tips? Check out The Grief Recovery Handbook. This book helps you take action to feel better for every problem from health problems to trauma to death.
Sacrifice Encourages Discipline
Giving up something that is a big part of your daily life can help build character. Honestly! If you are trying to kick a bad habit like swearing or smoking, this is the time to do it. Abstaining from your favorite indulgence makes you feel weak at first, but soon you will feel mentally stronger when you realize you no longer need that security blanket. Even if you are not sacrificing something for a religious reason, doing so is a way to challenge yourself to be less selfish and more aware of your actions.
Kicking an everyday habit, even if it's eating a piece of chocolate or drinking coffee, can also bring mindfulness to your life. Having to be aware of what you do or eat at all times helps get you out of autopilot! Focusing on something external that is hard for you is also a way to give your mind a break. When you have something difficult to focus on, you don't really have time to dwell on other problems or insecurities. An awesome resource for keeping up your self-sacrifice after Lent is Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior. This book helps you train your brain to resist temptations and stop self-sabotaging behaviors. Get your copy here.
You Can Apologize . . .
For Christians, Lent is a time to apologize to God for their sins. If you are not religious, you can take this time to apologize to the people you have wronged in your life instead. Admitting you were wrong is scary, but you will feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. Plus others will see you as both brave and compassionate. Because you have 40 whole days to observe Lent, you have the time to say you're sorry to everyone, for offenses big and small. Are you often short with your barista? Give them an extra big tip and a smile. Have you been in a feud with a family member for 10 years? Call them for a heart-to-heart.
On the other side of the coin, Lent is the perfect time to forgive those who have wronged you. Holding contempt in your heart for someone usually only hurts you, not them. Whether you had a spat with your partner or still hold a grudge against your childhood bully, take a deep breath and let it go. A great resource on how to do this is Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything. This guide is written by Oprah's right-hand life coach Iyanla Vanzant. It's a plan that helps you analyze your relationships, then harness your own emotional power to accept the past. Grab your copy here and you'll be on your way to feeling amazing!
No matter what religion you follow (or don't), challenge yourself to observe Lent this year. You may discover something new about yourself! Nothing makes you feel better than some self-care and personal growth. I promise you will feel great by Easter.
Resources:Coloring Lent: An Adult Coloring Book for the Journey to Resurrection It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand The Grief Recovery Handbook Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything