Lent by Addition

I have thought about this post several years during Lent, but I have procrastinated to a point well beyond Easter for two reasons. First, I’ve never really touched on religion on this blog. Second, I don’t want to draw undeserved attention to myself. It’s very hard to avoid the second reason when you’re writing a blog about yourself. However, I think that offering this post, at this precise time, will solve both problems.

As for the first problem, this isn’t really a religious post. Yes, it has to do with Lent, but not Lent as in Lent. It has more to do with the practice of fasting during Lent. Fasting doesn’t have to be confined to this time frame; lots of religions fast at different times. Lot of people fast outside of religious times, so we can drop any religious pretense for this post. Now that we have that cleared up, let’s look at the second problem. I think it will become apparent that there is little to be all impressed about me here.

About four years ago, I read an article about Lenten sacrifice. Most people who observe Lent, give something up during the period or fast in some manner. I have made attempts at giving up beer, chocolate, soda (back when I drank soda) and a few other minor addictions – mostly failed attempts. I once tried to give up coffee. At some point early in week two, my wife brought me a cup of coffee and said “drink this!” Apparently, I’m not a good companion when decaffeinated.

Giving up things wasn’t working. The article I was reading suggested alternatives to the whole giving up thing. Several options focused on the idea of adding something to your routine instead of giving something up. One idea was to do the things that others usually do for you. “How hard could that be?” I thought.

This is where you will understand why you don’t need to be impressed, it’s very hard. Since Lent only began a few days ago, I am barely even remembering that I am making the attempt.

Yesterday morning for instance, I started to hand my wife something that I wanted her to put away. She was closer to the cabinet where it belongs. As she reached for it, I remembered. I blurted out “ooh, Lent” pulled it back and put it away myself.

If you don’t think that sounds like much of a sacrifice, you’re right. It isn’t much of a sacrifice. However, as we proceed through Lent, I will notice more and more of these things. Making my own cup of tea, taking my own bowl to the sink, rinsing that bowl, putting my own shoes away, and so on. My experience with this approach has yielded a much greater appreciation for the folks around me.

Unlike giving up chocolate and then glomming down a half-dozen Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs on Easter Sunday, some of the things I add back to my life will endure. It’s not like on Easter Sunday I’m going to pull a Homer Simpson and yell out “honey, beer me!

Another reason not to be impressed is that I will likely drift back into a pattern of taking advantage of the people around me. I don’t mean for that to sound like I’m taking advantage of people. I’m merely taking advantage of the things people are willing to do. It sounds worse than it is. Really.

At some point during the year, I’ll hand my wife something to put away simply because she’s two feet closer to the cabinet but maybe I won’t do that until June.

One of the things I started doing during Lent a few years ago was to go and see the guy who works with me rather than ask him to come to my office. The very first time I did that, I realized that it was a good thing to do irrespective of Lent. Sometimes, the task at hand is easier to accomplish at his desk. It’s dumb to make him come to my office and work harder at the task just because I have the office.

I have shared this technique (I’m not sure technique’s the right word) with people, mostly when they ask me “so, what did you give up for Lent?” A couple of them have either tried it or asked their children to try it – children doing things others usually do for them…there’s some fertile ground for sacrifice.

If you’re still thinking about doing something for Lent, or if you’re just interested in appreciating the people in your world a little bit better, I would urge you to consider trying this behavior. It doesn’t have to be during Lent. You don’t have to tell people that you’re doing it. It doesn’t have to be for any particular length of time, but, if you’re like me, you won’t really start to ramp up for about two weeks. Also, if you’re anything like me, you will be amazed at how many little things other people are doing for you.

61 thoughts on “Lent by Addition

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  1. Dan, always enjoy reading your posts with added humor! This one gave me “thought.” It still can be a form of giving up for Lent, if you start it then. And hopefully continue it year round as a good change in behavior – giving up letting other do for you what you can do for yourself! Oh No, that sounds like Mom’s Lesson # 1, with no hint of humor! Yikes! Christine

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  2. Good one. A very interesting take on Lent. I think I should ask my husband to take this up even though he is not Catholic. Nice that you gave us proof in your photo. There are many things my husband does for me however so maybe I won’t rock the boat. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not Catholic either (I was for a bit) and I do try to do things for my wife as well. I think we all have room for improvement. I hope I don’t get in trouble with your husband :) Thanks for the comment Deborah.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This post was great, Dan–especially the ‘drink this!’ part. Oh my gosh, yes, didn’t every Catholic kid give up chocolate for Lent when we were in school? I have a friend who still does that. She is not a good companion unchocolated. I agree with you about the doing something vs giving something up but, for me, that falls by the wayside pretty darn quick. I must be doing it wrong…Maybe that’s my thing–try harder to do something!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually grew up in an evangelical Methodist church Lois, but we always gave something up for Lent. It’s a long story. I wasn’t tolerable without coffee, but I wasn’t very good at actually giving up chocolate.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think what you are really practising is gratitude…… by doing things for ourselves we become aware how much others do for us and that raises an appreciation that may not have been there – or conscious – before ….. How cool – now that does make you impressive!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great idea! Especially to practice this awareness and behavior with those who share our home; they often are the ones whose actions we take most for granted. Hub and I do say “thank you for …” to each other every day for small things one or the other does – laundry, grocery shopping, changing a light bulb. Ordinary chores but it feels good to be recognized and appreciated every day.

    For the last 18 months I’ve tried more consciously to give another driver a break, or cut some slack, whenever it’s safe and logical to do so. And I try to practice patience instead of anger when a driver is discourteous or thoughtless. It improves my mood and gives me hope that others will do that for my loved ones on the road.

    I never practiced the Lent tradition, and I think your novel idea is one that could be very effective. I AM impressed!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Adding in little nice gestures is also a good idea. I do try to think more about that too. Yeah, I’m not going nuts trying do everything under the sun but it’s easy to get close to taking advantage. Just trying to keep that in check. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My husband and I also thank each other for the things we do — especially those chores that the other would hate to do — him, trash + pets in the morning, me, most of the cooking and chores at night. Even though our respective chores fall into the times of day we are most willing to relax (I am creative in the morning so he takes that shift, and he is a hard worker so I give him the luxury of not having to do things when he stops) it is still nice to hear. I notice when other mates don’t thank their other half — it goes a long way to feeling loved and appreciated to be recognized.


  6. As I read your post Dan, marvellous as usual, three of your sentences struck me. Here they are:

    1) One idea was to do the things that others usually do for you.

    2) My experience with this approach has yielded a much greater appreciation for the folks around me.

    3) I realized that it was a good thing to do irrespective of Lent.

    Now, if this is what happens for you “doing” Lent your way, then I celebrate it. In fact I want to do it. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Don. It’s a way to improve self-awareness. I’m not always in favor of that. Sometimes I like my head in the sand :)

      I have felt better each year that I’ve done this. It wears off a little over time, but I like to think something good lingers on.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post. World would be a much better place if we all did this. Although lately I’ve seen that many people like to help and be needed. There’s an intimacy in passing your wife an item of clothing to put into the closet that she may well appreciate. It’s those small interactions that I miss the most. Making someone you care about a simple cup of tea is lovely. I guess it’s about balance and appreciating what people do – ‘good on yer’ as the kiwis say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Becca. We try to avoid “gift of the magi” syndrome (we’ve done that). My wife still brings me coffee in the morning. Sometime I get my own tea at night. I like that expression.


  8. I love this! It is very timely as I am single for a week while hubby is away at mine camp. So I am “:it” for litterbox duty and clearing snow duty and all the other chores that he takes care of. It makes me appreciate all that he does on a daily basis and how I benefit.

    I am painfully aware that I take advantage, too, of his industrious nature. He can’t sit idle. I used to be “prime” for vacuuming the house. I am far more comfortable with cobwebs and tufts of cat hair than he is, so he has now taken over that chore.

    Very good wake up call, this post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Along with ‘thecontentcrafter’ and Sammy D, I believe you are setting the groundwork for a much greater gift…consciousness. I don’t know of anything that makes us feel good with as much consistency as the act of giving to others. As your exercise makes apparent, we become unconscious of how often it happens. We loose twice; first by failing to receive their kindness, and second by failing to communicate our gratitude. In forty days, you might just develop a habit that makes you (and those around you) happier all the time.

    If you succeed, you should try to give up coffee again and see if it’s as apparent to your wife given your new skills. ;)

    Thanks for your blog and this post. I will talk to my boys about this tonight and see where it goes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post Dan, this is a far better way to approach Lent than giving something up just because you think you have to. I see far more benefit to yourself and others in this method and as the old saying goes, it is better to give than to receive. At least for now you are living it. Good luck and I hope you are able to keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I really love this idea, Dan! I’ve never officially observed Lent before, either, but told myself about four days into the game that this year, I would give up sugar. It hasn’t gone so well… But I figure, it’s not too late to start today!

    I do love your challenge, though, and will try to implement it into my routine this week. What a great way to appreciate others. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It’s really late and I should be sleeping not reading your post, but I couldn’t resist when you hinted that this one dealt with faith! My fav;)
    I confess I didn’t read all the comments and just raced down to post a thumbs up to your efforts at ‘doing unto others as you’d like them to do unto you’. That, my friend, never goes out of season. Well done Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a reflective and thoughtful post, Dan. I can’t remember ever trying to give up something during Lent. My brother gives up alcohol and meat. See, someone in the family is doing something! I like how you talked about this practice can be any time you choose. I like the idea of not telling others what is the plan. I bet the guy was pleased that you went over to his desk to work on the task. After all, in the words of George Eliot, what do we live for if not to make the lives of others easier? I hope I didn’t mess up her words too much.

    Keep putting those shoes away. Make your own tea and coffee. 😄😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Elaine. I had never heard that quote (and I am resisting the urge to Google it) so you didn’t mess it up from my perspective. It is a powerful idea and I like it. Really, what else is there when you really get down to the basics? I didn’t invent the practice, so you can modify it any way you like :)


  14. insightful, as always, Dan. We have a version of Lent, sometime in October, but I haven’t ever actively practised it. I try to work on small things though: I will appreciate my husband, try to compliment him for every good thing he does around the household (there are many) and I’ll hold myself back from criticizing every ‘wrong’ thing he does (most are so trivial, cribbing about them shows me my own pettiness). I’ll try to cook as often as I can, and do the dishes promptly. This year so far has been a meditation on becoming a better housewife– and like all sorts of meditation, it has opened my eyes to my blessings, taught me kindness and acceptance. (Life is short, we don’t have to make it nasty and brutish, too– that’s been my insight.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Damyanti. It’s so good to “see” you again. I love the last sentiment in your comment, People often observe that life is short, but I don’t think they always follow that thought to a better outcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Interesting. And the predicament of what to give up continues. Since lent usually involves an increase in Friday fish fries I usually look forward to it. And miss at least that part when it is over. During lent I try to continue the tradition of asking my spouse if I can beer her upon my arrival home. The declining answer is consistent. Fortunately that does not mean I cannot beer myself…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with you John. Growing up, Lent meant “fish from the Ritz Hotel” up the road from our house and it was something to look forward to. I’m not sure how that supports a notion of sacrifice, but it’s a favorite memory from childhood. As for the beer, at least you offered. Thanks for the comment.


  16. *Thinking of passing this post on to hubby* …. What a great idea, Dan! And in the process you get to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes for a little why, to bring about more appreciation on your part. Yet, sad to say, if we are not vigilant, odds are we will settle back into old patterns. Why do I say this? I will give you an example from my own life. When I left home for about a 2 day span, hubby had to step into my shoes. During a phone conversation when I was still out of town, he admitted he does not know how I do all that I do. You would think with that experience under his belt, he would be more willing to give me a hand. Um, no, overall. It’s easier to let me to keep doing, that’s it. *sighs* Now there are instances where I do see HOPE when hubby will do something without being asked, and I say …. OH wow, (to myself) perhaps he is learning how to reach out to help me. So, there you have it. LOL Great post, one I can totally relate to! (((HUGS))) Amy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy. I stepped into your shoes a little bit (in a different way). I have been very busy lately and I have fallen behind on reading, responding to comments, etc. I remember you writing about this, and it was helpful because I realized that “I still follow Amy and I still like her blog.” It was interesting to experience this challenge first hand, and I was glad that you (and some others) have written about this. So, thanks twice today.

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    1. Thanks Peter. Christians observe Lent during the 40 days leading up to Easter. Some fast, some make some sacrifice and others have other ways of remembering the sacrifice of Christ leading up to his death. The range of methods of observations varies widely among the many faiths. I was raised in a mixed religion family. My father was Orthodox Christian and they are big on fasting. My mother was evangelical Methodist and they were more “whatever goes, goes” but we tried to mic elements of both in our house. This idea suits me better than giving up something.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Christians here don’t practice Lent. I have been a Christian since childhood. I’d have heard of it. Lent is a great idea, from your description. Now I wonder why we never practiced it. I will inquire. Selflessness is the core of Jesus’ teachings.

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  17. I really like this, Dan. You’re so right. Sacrifice is not just giving up something material. In fact, I would venture to say that the Lord is much more impressed when we look at things from the perspective you’ve laid out here. Because let’s be honest — it’s a lot harder to give up something like our pride and to humble ourselves than it is to take a pass on our favourite snack. I truly wish that this was taught to people. I’ve never liked the idea of traditional Lent as I always felt it was a bit of a slap to Jesus to say, “Well, YOU sacrificed so I don’t have to, buuut… I’m going to thumb my nose at your blessings for a little while anyway.” NOT trying to start a fight with people by saying that. I’m NOT saying there’s something wrong with Lent. But the way it’s done has always rubbed me the wrong way. This is just my own personal feelings. But what YOU are doing? Taking the “sacrifice” away from material things and internalizing it? YES, that is the kind of sacrifice that I think God wants from us. I tip my hat to you, Dan. God bless you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Wendy. It wasn’t my idea, but I really liked it. I always felt a little bad “giving up” meat on Fridays because I totally love fish. It was like a sacrifice and a treat at the same time and I had to think that that wasn’t really in keeping with the message. Kind of the letter of the law vs the spirit of the law. I do feel better about it. Also, giving up was easy. I would just give something up and (usually) substitute something else. This is a gradual process. I notice more and more things during the season and it forces me to think about that,

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Thoughtful post, Dan. I really liked it. Seeing pics of Oreos and Reese’s peanut-butter cups is almost giving me flashbacks to past Lents here! So if I can mount my soapbox for a minute here …

    I’ve given up all kinds of things over the years — TV, chocolate, rock music, etc. — and I’ve found that it’s easy to fall into a rut and sort of lose the merit, if you will. (Of course, that’s easy to do with almost anything.) So I try to remember why I’m doing it in mind. Lent is meant to focus us on the supreme sacrifice our Lord made on Good Friday, so we give up something small to remind us (borrowing a phrase from Christmas) of “the reason for the season”. So when I miss the little thing I gave up for Lent. or feel hungry when I fast, I can look — either literally or figuratively — to the Cross and remind myself that it’s absolutely nothing compared to what He gave up for us.

    But it’s more than that. It’s supposed to help us in our efforts to give up sin. The idea behind giving up a “legitimate” pleasure is that we help train ourselves to forgo the ones that AREN’T legitimate. In short, if I can curtail my appetite for small things, well, maybe I can more successfully move onto big things. It’s like taking practice swings in baseball with a bat weight, you know? It makes us a bit stronger, and therefore (we hope) more successful when we’re in a clutch situation.

    That’s a lot to ask of a humble Oreo, I know, but hey — small steps, right? Little acorns, big trees? Something like that. Oh, and one other thing: Your wife was right. Never, EVER give up coffee. That’s just cruel to the people around you. ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Paul. The true meaning of Lent often gets lost in the crowd of other thoughts that beg for our attention, like snow, spring, baseball, etc. I like your comment about this being a lot to ask of an Oreo. Even adding little things to the mix, doing what other do for me, pales by comparison to what Jesus did for us. I guess/hope that what’s important is that we try. Thanks for reading and for the thoughtful and thought provoking comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It does get lost, yes. Maybe that’s why the world is so noisy. We need quiet now and then to remember what really matters, so the Devil is naturally going to make sure THAT is in short supply.

        Liked by 1 person

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