It is often very challenging to live out our Lenten vows. It is easy to forget sometimes and occasionally we even consciously give in to the temptation. Answer these questions to avoid breaking your Lenten vows. Whether you are giving something up or adding prayer or almsgiving, ask yourself:
- Specifically, what am I giving up (or adding)?
- What will be the biggest challenges in giving this up (or adding this)?
- What will I do to overcome these challenges?
1. Clearly Define the Lenten Vow
Looking back at my own experience, I’ve often been in the situation where I had to as myself, “Am I really giving this up? Does this count?” Then begins and internal debate in my head about whether or not this “counts.” To avoid falling into this same trap this year, clearly define what you are giving up and not giving up right from the start.
For example, my friend gives up condiments each year. Mostly this mean giving up ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, salt & pepper, etc.–anything you put on food to make it taste better. Well, we would debate each year whether or not he had to give up peanut butter sandwiches. If peanut butter is a condiment, shouldn’t he have to give it up completely? His rule of thumb was that if the condiment was the meal, then it didn’t count. He made the call and didn’t have to debate with himself for every meal.
2. Identify the Challenges
Typically, we give something up that is hard for us to do (or not do). Assuming you’ve done the same, it doesn’t hurt to look out for the challenges and prepare for them.
Let’s say, for example, you gave up chocolate for Lent. Where is the chocolate in your house? Where is that secret stash that even your husband and kids don’t know about? O.K., now where are you really hiding that candy? What are the times of day that youc crave chocolate the most? Where are the places you tend to buy chocolate?
3. Brainstorm Strategies
Now that you have pinpointed the challenges, make a plan for what you will do to overcome the challenges. Imagine yourself resisting the urge to give in. Think of ways you can avoid the challenges and obstacles standing in your way.
Think back to the chocolate example again. Will you lock up the candy in the house or give it away? Will you change your shopping habits so that you aren’t tempted by an impulse chocolate purchase? Will you think of other deserts to have at nice restaurants that don’t have chocolate?
An Example of the 3 Lenten Questions in Action
This year I’m going on an information fast.
Since this is kind of abstract and out of the ordinary, I really needed to use these questions to zero-in on what I’m trying to accomplish and what “counts” and what doesn’t.
What is an information fast? Today we are bombarded with new information everywhere we turn: links to news articles, blog posts, podcasts, books, etc. It can severely inhibit our ability to think creatively, connect with others, and take action. A trap that many bloggers fall into is reading article after article about blogging without ever actually implementing the lessons they learn. I’m going to cut back on sporadic reading time and focus on creative production and reading for a purpose.
1. Specifically, what am I giving up (or adding)?
An Information Fast
- I will not click on links to articles and blog posts while on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other social media sites.
- I will not read articles in my Google Reader.
- I will not listen to podcasts.
- I will not listen to audio books while in the car.
- UNLESS…these articles, podcasts, videos, and books are used as research for writing projects, strategic planning, work projects, or other creative work. This requires a group of articles to be read a specific times and not sporadically whenever they pop up in my social streams.
2. What will be the biggest challenges in giving this up?
- Social media bombards us with links! I’ve been in the habit of reading what people post, thus disrupting my workflow and day.
- I have a habit of checking my Google Reader every morning.
- I listen to podcasts on the way to and from work. I also listen to them when doing tedious tasks at work.
- I’m right in the middle of the Steve Jobs biography and Lincoln’s biography, Team of Rivals, so I’m bummed to have to put them on hold (again).
- With the Pope retiring and a new one getting elected, it will be incredibly tough not to read about developments as they happen!
3. What will I do to overcome these challenges?
- I will use social media as a way to connect with people not access information. I will make this a conscious choice before I log on to any social network and make a point to connect with comments and @replies before signing off.
- I will take action based on what I’ve read and taken notes on in the past rather than consuming new information all the time.
- Instead of podcasts or audio books, I’ll listen to music from old CDs or the radio (not talk radio–sorry Dave Ramsey and NPR!) while on my commute. Or I’ll pray a Rosary.
- Instead of reading articles about news and current events, I’ll ask people to summarize for me. It will help me connect with people and save the time of reading articles.
- For the Pope developments, I will create lesson plans, videos, and activities and use the new articles as a part of research to create something new. Rather than reading them here and there, I’ll research all at once and create a product out of it.
Does this help? Share some of your answers below or post it to your social media accounts (…sorry I won’t be clicking on your link!).