I grew up Catholic and even went to a Catholic school for 12 years (and yes, all of those stories about nuns are true).
I’m not a practicing Catholic anymore, but I still remember all of the rituals and traditions I was taught.
As most people know, this time of year in the Catholic Church is Lent.
Lent is a 40 day period of preparation and reflection before the celebration of Easter.
One of the traditions of Lent is for an individual to surrender a particular ‘vice’ for the the 40 day Lenten period as form of ‘sacrifice’ to honor Christ’s withdrawal into the the desert for 40 days.
In school we were required to declare our Lenten sacrifice, usually publicly in front of the class, and made to report in weekly on our progress.
As children we never took this very seriously, or at least I didn’t.
Like most of my friends, I would give up something easy, or something I didn’t really care about anyway.
My favorite was to give up chocolate milk every year.
This was easy for me because I have never liked chocolate milk anyway
I guess you could say I missed the point of the Lenten sacrifice, but I never failed in my endeavor either.
Earlier this week in my entrepreneurial group, one of our members was talking about a concept he called ‘Reverse Lent’.
He rationalized, why give up something for 40 days when at the end of those 40 days you are likely to gorge on whatever it was you gave up anyway. If that is the case, what did you really learn or sacrifice for?
Sure you can give up Ice Cream or alcohol or meat for 40 days, but what have you really accomplished if on Day 41 you go out and get drunk, have a double cheeseburger, or gorge on a pint of ice cream.
A better use of those 40 days would be to ‘choose to build better habits rather than merely “giving up” micro vices that will be re-claimed once Lent has reached its expiration date.’
Working towards becoming a better version of yourself.
Recommitting to a healthier lifestyle.
Strengthening your relationship(s) with friends and family.
Making 1% improvements over time.
These activities seem to honor the spirit of Lent far more than making some half assed attempt at ‘sacrificing’ some vice you are just going to resume again in 6 weeks.
Imagine the person you could become in 5 or 10 years if every year you committed to somehow becoming a better version of yourself than you are today every Lent.
Now imagine if you started doing that when you were a child instead of giving up those Thin Mints or chocolate milk.
Would you be the same person you are today?
While I may not be religious anymore, this concept of ‘Reverse Lent’ seems like a tradition I can get behind and support.
Inadvertently I began my ‘Reverse Lent’ on March 4th when I committed to a 28 Day Challenge in my StoryAthlete entrepreneurial group, which focuses on strengthening the mind, body, business, and relationships.
I look forward to teaching my kids this ‘new’ Lenten tradition as they get older and can only imagine the potential of the person they could become if they can commit to working towards a better person of themselves year over year.
If there is one thing I have learned about being a parent is that the best way to teach is to lead by example.