Why (And How) A Mormon Will Celebrate Lent in 2012

I’m about to begin an intense detox.

Starting Wednesday, my wonderful wife and I will be giving up television, movies, and video games for 40 days. We might also eliminate some other things.

This is the fourth year in a row I’ve given up my TV habit in celebration of Lent, a traditionally Catholic observance. I’m Mormon, not Catholic, and I’ll be the first to admit that my efforts don’t match what is traditionally required in the Catholic faith. But I respect that tradition, so I’ve adopted and adapted some aspects of it for my own life.

Here’s why I’m celebrating Lent:

Television has too strong a hold on my life, normally.

We’ve already given up cable, but I still really enjoy sitting down to watch a TV show or movie. Especially with our new baby, it’s been so easy to turn on Hulu or pop in a DVD to watch during a feeding.

And here’s the thing: I like having TV in my life. I don’t intend to give it up entirely, because it can be good, cheap entertainment. That’s why a relatively short-term restriction works so well for me, because I’m able to live a life without TV without worrying that I’ll never get it again.

I believe in fasting.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’m accustomed to the principle of fasting.

Traditionally, Mormons fast monthly by going without food or drink for 24 hours and donating to the needy. Fasting is an opportunity to strengthen one’s willpower, practice self-control, and reconnect with God.

Food isn’t the only thing we can fast from. I choose to fast from TV, movies, and video games because this represents a sacrifice for me, but it’s also not a permanent change.

You can do “anything” for 40 days.

Said another way: I believe in doing hard things for limited time frames.

One of our Really Awesome Things to Do in 2012 is to complete a series of 30-day challenges: things like blogging every day for a month or running 100 miles over 30 days.

Focusing on one challenge for a short time allows you to make real progress and do something meaningful, without permanently damaging the other aspects of your life.

I get to live a different life.

For 40 days, I’ll be in a world with more books, fewer distractions, more time to meditate, and less influence from pop culture. This is a good thing.

I’ll detox from the negative influences of the media, and when I start watching again, I’ll have a better sense of context and control over my viewing habits.

Celebrating Lent prepares me for Easter.

As a Christian, this is huge for me. Easter is a wonderful time to celebrate the life, mission, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The buildup to Christmas gets me in the spirit and right frame of mind with plenty of time to spare, but, in the past, Easter has come and gone almost before I realized. Once I started celebrating my version of Lent, that changed. Every urge to watch TV becomes a reminder to look forward to Easter and think about what it means.

Want to try it?

I recommend trying this technique in your own life. This year, Lent starts on Wednesday, February 22nd, but you can apply this idea any time.

Simply pick a fast (something to give up), a timeframe (such as the 40 days before Easter), and (bonus:) a reason (such as preparing for Easter).

For choosing your fast, here are some principles that may be helpful to you:

  • Choose something that involves a sacrifice. It doesn’t have to be television and movies, but it should be something that you ordinarily enjoy.
  • Choose something that makes you better. You shouldn’t try to give up drinking water or paying rent, for example. Instead, focus on sacrifices that improve your schedule, health, well-being or spirituality.
  • Choose something that comes up frequently. Ideally, your sacrifice should be part of your daily (or at least weekly) life. The regular reminders make the effort meaningful.
  • Choose something do-able. While it should be a challenge, I wouldn’t recommend going overboard and changing every aspect of your life at once. Instead, pick one or two things to focus on, and don’t get overwhelmed.

This yearly effort has made my life better. I hope you consider trying something similar.

If you try it, let me know. I’m sure it will improve your life, too.

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6 thoughts on “Why (And How) A Mormon Will Celebrate Lent in 2012”

  1. I always admired you for doing this, but I can’t fathom being able to do it. Plus I am all about if somebody tells me I can’t have something, I want it more. Even if it is myself. But have you ever thought of instead of giving up something, doing something you don’t normally do, or do it more every day for 40 days. ie: read your scriptures for a longer period of time, more physical exercise, more time for prayer each day. Would that still be “fasting”? Just a thought.

    1. I like this idea. I’m going to be doing a lot more “adding” challenges over the course of the year as thirty-day challenges. More exercise, more scripture time, etc. And, in fact, I’ll probably end up adding a lot over the next forty days, simply as a result of having more time. But, personally, I really like the special feeling of giving something up as a fast for Lent. It’s an opportunity to train and restrain my impulses in a different way than I would get just from adding something.

      Thanks for your kind words and interesting comment!

  2. I’ve also participated in Lent for the last several years, and I often get criticism over it, oddly. This is a great explanation of why a Mormon (or anyone) would participate in Lent. Thanks, David :)

    1. I think I probably originally got the idea from some discussions on the 100 Hour Board, back in the day. :) I thought it was a good idea, so it eventually became a tradition for me (and my new little family).

      That’s interesting and too bad that you get the criticism over it. I found when I first started doing this I had to explain myself a little more, and this post is kind of my summation of why I’ve decided it really is a good idea.

      If you’re willing to share, do you have anything to add about how or why you participate in Lent?

  3. David – this is a very thoughtful explanation of why one would choose to participate in Lent.. Congratulations to you and your wife on making tough, but very good choices. Like the soap operas, don’ t worry – all the drama will be there waiting for you in 39 days!!!

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