Once upon a Lent, ages ago, I gave up chips. Maybe I should back up a bit. Lent for many is a time of deciding what you’re giving up. “What are you giving up for Lent?” I have friends who aren’t RC – aren’t even religious – who take the banner of “Whatcha giving up for Lent?” It’s a timeboxed opportunity to make yourself “better” (whatever that means for you). If you don’t have a religious background, it might be a New Year’s Resolutions mulligan. It might be an opportunity to do a 30(+) day challenge to improve your habits somehow. And really, that’s what I’m doing too in my own Lenten efforts. Giving something up used to be the only thing I knew about how one participates in Lent. My friends and I would discuss it in easy RC kid conversations in school yards and in the cafeteria – chocolate was always a popular amongst my friends as the thing to give up. I don’t remember a single thing I gave up, except one – when I was 12(ish) or so, I gave up chips. At 12, I wasn’t funding my own chip consumption, so if the weekly grocery trip didn’t bring chips into the house, then I mischief managed, I didn’t have chips. This last fun-fact makes it feel a little… disingenuous… as I look back at it. But here we are.
These day’s I’m considerably older than 12. Last week my dayjob had our FY24 Company Kick-Off, and part of that is always an overview of high level corporate Objective and Key Result (OKR) goals. These goals trickle down from the senior leadership level to every level between senior leadership and all the individual contributors, getting more granular at every level along the way. But the point is that everyone can track their yearly effort directly to the company goals. It’s kind of an elegant design – I like it. It allows for a fair bit of latitude in how your relate your goals up (rather than being TOLD what you’re going to be achieving). Anyway, in many of those higher-level OKRs, the phrase “In an atmosphere of growth” always appears.
And knowing that my Lent Project was starting soon, it occurred to me – looking at my Lent Project through a lens of a growth model makes waaaa-aaay more sense to me than just give up something for a while. I look to Lent to repair the damage that I’ve caused to my relationship with my spirituality.
And as we roll up to Lent, I still default to thinking about what I should give up, but as I do the Lent Project, I’ve tried to widen that net. Lent provides a framework of Fast/Pray/Almsgiving, and I can fill that with daily reflections or challenges to stop doing things that are not soul-nourishing (Fasting), show gratitude and make amends when I’ve done wrong (Pray) and acts of kindness and charity (Almsgiving). My chip habit is only one third of the spiritual growth avenues I should be pursuing – and decidedly more corporeal than the spiritual goals I’m aiming for.
A guy I worked with many jobs ago used to get really angry every review cycle – he said that he did the same work the previous year as he did that year, and his yearly evaluation was getting lower every year. He was told that every year he was supposed to grow in the role, and as he grew, a higher level of work was expected of him. He thought that was bullshit. If he did the same good job, he should get the same good evaluation. He was expected to grow when he wanted to stay static. His feeling was the antithesis of the atmosphere of growth. That’s kind of how I feel about just giving something up. If I always do what I always did, I’ll always get what I always got. These days, I want more than that, so I have to DO more than that.
And so we find ourselves here, on Shrove Tuesday. Today’s menu says ‘Brown Sugar Bourbon steak bites’ and I’ve got the steak thawed in the fridge. Asparagus and pancakes are suitable side dishes for that, right?
I’ve created a landing page for past years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflection Projects > Lent Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!