Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lent and Self-Discipline - [VerusAnimus' Reflection]

I enjoy lent.  I look forward to it every year.  I see Lent as a way to "restart."  It is a reset button for living a better life (similar to how New Year and its resolutions are a restart for a new year).  I personally think Lent's "restart" effect is more profound.  For those who don't know, the season of Lent is the forty days before Easter starting from Ash Wednesday and not including Sundays.

During Lent, you give up something earthly and personal.  It can be something you're addicted to or something you use a lot.  For example, you can give up candy, TV, video games, or even FaceBook. The point of giving things up is to build self-discipline.  By continuously rejecting things you "can't live without," you are building your self-discipline.  Your goal is to make it to Easter without failing.  If you make it, you will emerge a stronger person - both in will and in character.

I know this effect is real because I have been participating in Lent ever since I learned about it in my high school's youth group.  During my last few years of high school as an upperclassman, I gave up music.  To be specific, I gave up music from the radio, from iTunes, and from the Internet.  I am an individual who loves music and I wanted to challenge myself.  Giving up music was definitely a challenge!  To up the challenge, I included Sundays - so I effectively gave up music for about 6.5 weeks.

A side story: during my first year of giving up music (2009), I posted a song (Boom Boom Pow) from the Black Eyed Peas on my channel.  I have never listened to that song.  It was their first song since their last album in 2005.  I wanted to listen to that song but I stopped myself.  So I posted it on YouTube and left it alone.  Next thing I knew, I was getting millions of views on that video!  I finally listened to it after Lent and that song became one of my favorites by them. (((My YouTube Channel)))

Anyways, giving up music was literally muting my life.  Every single day I wanted to listen to music but every single day I had to resist the urge to play music.  I even asked my family to not play music so that I could accomplish this.  In retrospect, asking my family to give up music along with me was a bit selfish, which is why I don't give up music if the season of Lent falls during moments when I'm home for the majority of the season. Regardless, during Lent, my self-discipline grew.  I guess I can also attribute the growth in self-discipline to my family values, my church values, and growing up in a military town.  Nevertheless, by the time Easter arrived, I was so excited to listen to music.  However, since I was so used to not listening to music, I also didn't want to - I wanted to make a "new record" for not listening to music.  In the end, I ended up playing Boom Boom Pow and I got back into the music world.  I became more appreciative of music.  40+ days of being deprived of something you enjoy makes you appreciate it so much more.

This year I have given up different distractions: social networks such as Instagram and Twitter.  I find it really important to give those up because they are a complete distraction from school.  I'm in my last year of university and having constant access to these social networks brought my performance down.  That is why I couldn't wait for Lent to begin so that I would be forced to stop using those accounts.  Once Lent began, I hid my distracting apps using a Cydia app.  The app is available only on jailbroken iDevices.  In this case it is useful because it literally hides the app's existence from my iPad.  I could easily "unhide" the apps but I wont - the point of Lent is to have the self-discipline to avoid whatever I give up.

One may ask, "why do I have to wait for Lent?  Why can't I just stop sooner?"  Well, I could.  A lot of people could.  However, there's a psychological factor that comes along with Lent, something that makes things official.  It's easy to say you give up something and simply relapse back because it's not "official".
For example, consider this: an individual asks a roommate to pay rent for one semester because that individual can't afford it. The roommate agrees and they shake hands on it. However, a day before payment is due, the roommate backs out.  The individual argues that the roommate promised to pay.  The roommate says that it wasn't official and there's no proof because the agreement wasn't in writing.

There are probably better examples out there but this is an example I could come up with at the top of my head.  You can agree to giving something up but if it's not "official," you don't have a psychological obligation to follow through.  Yes, you may have your own code of honor, which would be nice.  Perhaps it's a side-effect of the society we live in but in some cases, people consider that things have to be "official" before any action is taken, or at least effort to take that action is made.

All in all, Lent is important because it builds self-discipline.  It helps individuals to build character.  It enables people to take their focus off their "addictions" and to turn their sights to other aspects of life, whether it's their family, school, or new hobbies. By making people realize that they don't know what they have until it's gone, Lent makes individuals more appreciative of the big and little things in life.


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