I am officially on a shopping ban until April 6. Or, as some would say, I am giving up shopping for Lent. As a non-practicing Catholic, I do reserve the right to participate in Lent under the general idea of — to borrow a friend’s words — figuring out what is in the way of doing what is right, making room for growth, and participating in the things that give life. This is an idea I wholeheartedly agree with, even as a non-believer.
Regarding my shopping ban and how something so mundane is connected to those lovely words: in my case, shopping has been taking place in the form of “retail therapy” recently, as opposed to seeking out the things I or others actually need. Unlike actual therapy, it is not life giving or supportive of growth; it is in fact often in the way of my doing what is right. In order to make room for growth (buying a house, starting a family, supporting our future security, or giving to others), I need to cut it out. Done.
This morning I also got a bit of a wild hair up my…sleeve and decided I was taking an extended break from Facebook. Perhaps I’ll align this to coincide with Lent as well. I didn’t think of it until today and was likely all over Facebook yesterday, Ash Wednesday, but I can certainly stick to it for the rest of the season, right? I’m not sure giving up Facebook fits in with the Lent paradigm I outlined above, but I do know that there are many, many occasions where, after checking on my newsfeed, the way I feel gets in the way of my doing good. It’s far more likely to spur me toward feelings of jealousy, negativity, irritation, and criticism of others. So I’ll be stepping away for a little while.
(Facebook friends, I’ve kept the messaging app on my phone so we can continue any ongoing conversations, but I won’t log into the site. This is great because the messaging app allows me to send and receive, à la email, without ever having to see the verdammten newsfeed.)
On the other hand, I find some social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, to generally be things that support my happiness and well being. I can air my thoughts and receive support from friends; I can be introduced to new and interesting ideas; be exposed to people and things that inspire. Most often, the connections I make and maintain on these networks spur me toward feelings of community, friendship, generosity, and support of others. Funny how that is the exact opposite of what I said about Facebook, isn’t it?
At any rate, I’ll be staying active on those sites. I don’t think Lent should be about giving up things that make you happy and keep you connected to others. I’m not going to wear a hair shirt. Even for the most devout Catholics, I don’t think that’s what the season is about.
I’d love to hear from others on this topic — do you celebrate Lent, either as a believer or as a non-practicing “cultural Catholic”? What does it mean to you? If you don’t mind sharing, what are you giving up or adding into your life this year?