Feb 13, 2008

My Lenten Resolution: Be Kinder

For those who don't know, Lent is the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Scripturally, it is the time when Jesus resisted Satan's temptations out in the desert. Therefore, it is customary for Catholics (I'm not sure about other Christian denominations) to make a sacrifice during Lent to remind themselves of Christ's sacrifices.

When I was younger, I made the common sacrifice of not eating chocolate. For someone who loves chocolate as much as I do, this is no small sacrifice. But at the same time, I never felt like a better person for it.

Throughout the last ten years or so, more often than not, I haven't done anything for Lent at all. But this year, I resolved to be a kinder, gentler person. My starting point was to spend a little time every day reading Richard Carlson's book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.

The chapters are all two to three pages (and the dimensions of the book itself are pretty small). This makes it easy for me to read in small pockets of time, like when I'm brushing my teeth. And I've found that the book centers me - it reminds me of what's important and what I want to prioritize.

For example: Being kind relieves stress, and eliminating stress is more important than being right. We recently took Alex to Disneyland (more on that in another post) and we found ourselves in line behind a family of three - a mother, a father, and their young daughter, about four years old. A minute or two later, another family of three appeared behind us - a grandmother and her two grandsons, the younger grandson also appearing to be about four years old. Within minutes, the young boy had slipped in front of Alex and me and was holding hands with the girl. It turned out that the families had waited together at an earlier ride and the kids had immediately become attached to each other.

For about five minutes (we were in line for a while), I waited for the family in front of us to tell Alex and me that we should go ahead of them. That way the kids could be together and the adults wouldn't be talking past us, and Alex and I wouldn't have the grandmother and her older grandson invading our personal space from behind. But it became clear that the family in front had no intention of yielding their place in line. Yet it was stressing me out that the grandmother and her older grandson were practically on top of Alex and me in order to keep up with the younger grandson. So I told them to go in front of us.

Part of me felt "wronged" by the family that had been in front of us. But I made it easier for that grandmother to keep up with her grandson, and I was lot less stressed once Alex and I were out of the situation. In this case, being kind and giving up a couple minutes of waiting time made me feel a whole lot better. I think practicing this kind of behavior will make me a better person and a better Christian, and after all, that's what Lent is all about.


JLP said...

Good story, Cathy.

When you project kindness unto another person, it puts you in control. I wish I could remember that! Most of the time I just get all bent out of shape before I have taken the time to the assess the situation.


Anonymous said...

Cathy, you were so smart and kind to let the others in front of you. It not only helped them, it helped you as well.

I was raised Catholic but am Lutheran now. All giving candy up ever did for me was make me want Lent to be OVER. This year, my daughter and I are praying for the teachers and staff at school/church (she goes to the Lutheran school at our church). Everyone needs prayers and it helps remind us of the good qualities of the person for whom we are praying. We don't dwell on their faults, although we pray that God will help them in the areas where they need help.

I don't know if Lutherans used to "give something up" but we are currently encouraged to do something positive to enhance our faith walk with Jesus (praying, Bible study, doing for others, etc.)

Anshu said...


thanks for sharing your story. I think I could use this advice to be kinder too, if not kind, then at least forgetful. I have this habit of remembering bad things for a really long period of time and bothering myself and as a consequence hubby with that. If only I could forget the little incidents from past ... I am not a Christian but I think I can also try letting go of a few things on this ocassion.

Chief Family Officer said...

Thanks so much everyone, you're very kind to make me feel good about this - I'm so glad I'm not the only one who struggles with patience and kindness!

@Mar - You're absolutely right about giving up candy for Lent, I just couldn't wait for it to be over too!

Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

Being thoughtful about Lent can turn this 40 day journey into one of peace and growth. I like your choice of Lenten intention. I've also written about Lent on my personal finance blog...

Anonymous said...

I think praciticing "random acts of kindness" is a wonderful way to observe Lent. :-)