Colette Sheridan: Forget booze and chocolate —give up social media for Lent

Lent has become a time to pretend to break bad habits, so says Colette Sheridan in her weekly column
Colette Sheridan: Forget booze and chocolate —give up social media for Lent

LENTEN LOCKDOWN: Perhaps you can give up your smartphone for 40 days and reconnect with God at Lent? Picture: istock

ADMIT it. Giving something up for Lent, like chocolate or booze, is not a pure sacrifice but rather, an example of pimping out this seasonal time for (slight) deprivation.

We don’t really care that this Christian event is meant to identify with the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, with nothing to distract him from prayers and reflection other than the devil trying to tempt him.

Many of us are easy prey for ‘the devil’ as we succumb to too much wasteful clothes shopping and stock up our supermarket trolleys with all kinds of goodies.

How many people will actually just eat very plainly during Lent, with no sweet food allowed and no alcohol?

The token eschewing of chocolate products is not exactly in the realm of a major relinquishing of a bad habit. Particularly when we know we can break out on St Patrick’s day and look forward to gorging on Easter eggs when the dreary forty days are over. (Funny how we cling to the rules of Lent, despite many of us having abandoned religion.)

Being expedient, we use Lent as a time to get slim and healthy. We may not have any religious beliefs but it is a good time to declare our ‘sacrifice’.

But it’s no sacrifice to give up calorific food and drink in order to look and feel better. The ulterior motive is what keeps us going.

We are generally not guided by a vision of Jesus having a terrible time. It’s more to do with wowing our friends with our slimmed down bodies. And that only applies to those of us that are disciplined.

Many fall by the wayside and break out, fooling themselves that chocolate biscuits don’t count while boxes of chocolate are verboten.

Having given up cigarettes and booze (although not at Lent), I feel too deprived of my former crutches to relinquish chocolate. And besides, it would hardly mirror the sacrifices of Jesus.

According to Belief.net, a website that gives information on different beliefs and habits, cutting out booze and/or chocolate “does not necessarily equate to ‘a good thing to give up for Lent’”

And there you were thinking it would be a cakewalk that would make you look good, feel good and save money. As if Lent could be that easy.

As Belief.net states: “It is clear from the list of the most popular Lenten sacrifices that the average Christian has forgotten why people began giving up things in the 40 days before Easter in the first place.

“Instead, Lent has become a time to pretend to break bad habits. Everyone knows, though, that they are going to go right back to gossiping, smoking, eating chocolate or drinking alcohol on Easter Sunday.

“Lent, however, is not supposed to be a temporary break from your favourite vices or a 40 day marathon test of willpower.”

Lenten sacrifices of Christians are meant to mirror the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. Now, people can’t get 40 days off school or work to try and emulate their saviour.

Belief.net spells it out, saying what you give up for Lent should be something that distracts you from God.

“Lent is meant to mirror Christ’s sacrifices, but it is also meant to echo His solemn time of prayer just as much.

“As such, a Lenten sacrifice should be something that, once removed, makes it easier for you to connect with God.

“Despite how many Christians give up chocolate for 40 days, sugar does not meet the criteria for a Lenten sacrifice. With the exception of heavy drinkers and alcoholics, alcohol does not normally meet these criteria either.”

So just what can you give up for Lent and earn brownie points from your God for so doing?

It comes down to electronics and social media, would you believe.

Social media, navigated on smart phones, is today’s bugbear. It seems to be blamed for almost everything. It has “a detrimental effect on people’s mental wellbeing and spiritual health. Those who over-indulge in social media tend to be more jealous, depressed and bitter.”

So, in order to give up your auld sins, putting aside your phone “will let people reconnect with God and remember who loves them the most”.

Sorry, but If I locked away my phone, I reckon I’d be staring into the abyss. Which is why I’m doing something more manageable for Lent.

Instead of giving up something, each day of Lent, I am removing one item from my house which I don’t use or wear anymore and am putting it in a bag to donate to a charity shop.

So far, I’ve ditched some books I’ll never read and items of clothing that I haven’t worn for at least a year.

It’s no sacrifice to declutter. It’s my Lenten cheat.

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