There’s a lot of talk about “giving up” something for Lent.
But what are we giving up? Who is giving *what* up? And why?
How we talk about lenten practices ought to be sensitive to our stories and social positions.
For instance, if a person finds themselves to be a part of a group that is socialized to put others before themselves, it can be damaging to insist that person choose to “give up” or “take away” something that gives comfort. For myself, I was raised and socialized to consider myself last, make myself small and to make others happy. I uncritically accepted messages about “making oneself less” or “putting others first” because I grew up repeatedly being told I was selfish and “too much” for doing normal, healthy developmental things for my of my childhood. I learned then that choosing time for myself, asking for space, prioritizing my own interests, and seeking warmth and comfort when it inconvenienced others were not safe for me to do. To this day, I still struggle to not have thoughts that something bad will happen to me – that I will be alone, unsafe and abandoned – if I choose myself.
(Because of the world that we live in and because of real dynamics of power, this sense of danger and threat in response to my authenticity exists. However, it is not the whole story).
We don’t have to follow the catch all trends we might have been taught about how to observe Lent. These days, I like to think of “making space” instead of “giving up”. What am I making space for in my life that is life giving for me and the collective? What do I want to see less of and make less space for?
There are definitely people who will find that it makes sense to give something up. There are people among us who need to hear how beneficial it is to make oneself uncomfortable.
We get to choose what is right for us in this moment in time, in this particular place we find ourselves in our personal and shared journeys.
We get to be critical of trends and traditions and expectations that don’t work for us. We get to choose.
Who in your community can help you discern what feels right for you? What feels right is as unique as you are.
What do you care about? What do you want to see more of? And how do you make space to create that in the world?
What are you making space for more of this Lent?