If you see a bit of dirt of the foreheads of some people today, that black mark is not dirt it is Ash. Today is Ash Wednesday. If you are Catholic it is the start of the Lenten season, which signifies the 40 days of preparation before Easter.
Why do I mention Ash Wednesday? There is an interesting part of Lent that begins on this day. It the ritual of “giving up” something for Lent. Since this blog is not really about religion or faith why do I bring up Ash Wednesday?
The reason I mention this is because even if you are not Catholic, this is idea is something everyone can learn from. It is a little like New Year’s in that it is a defining moment when you can make positive change in your life. By choosing something to give up, you can focus on removing an unhealthy habit. What you give up can not be something easy either. It has to be something that makes a significant impact on your life and daily habits. Also, Lent is a reminder to acknowledge all that we have and, for me, I think of the sacrifices others have made for me.
The major thought shift that occurs during Lent is from doing something for an internal narcissistic reason like looking better, or achieving more money. To giving up something to signify the sacrifice of something greater then our self. I think that is where non-Catholics can get on board. It’s about looking towards something greater then our self. By giving up something hard to do for someone or something outside of yourself, you feel a more intense need to achieve that goal or break that habit.
For example, giving up smoking in honor of your grandmother that died of cancer, eating 5 vegetables a day to model healthy eating for your children. Save a portion of your paycheck to donate in support the troops. When you compare the minor things we give up to the monumental sacrifices made by others. It feels like the least we can do in honor of them. By giving up something difficult, it is in that challenge to we honor a loved one, an event or a sacrifice greater then ourselves.