When we think of fasting during Lent, we often think of giving up certain foods—chocolate, desserts, meat, beer, wine, and such. And that’s fine. But fasting goes beyond food. Here are some other ways of fasting during Lent.
Fasting from speed. Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Not everything has to be done fast. In fact, some things deserve to be done slowly—like reading a bedtime story to a child, eating lunch with a friend, cooking a special meal, sipping tea or wine or hot chocolate, sitting at the bedside of someone who is ill, puttering in the garden, talking quietly with a loved one, watching a sunset. Slowing down nurtures patience.
Fasting from negativity. Negative people see the world through gray-colored glasses. They focus on what’s wrong with the world instead of what’s right. They complain, “My right knee hurts today,” instead of adding that their neck, shoulders, elbows, hands, left knee, ankles, and feet are all fine today. They shoot down every new idea with, “It won’t work!” and every expression of hope with generalities like “People are basically selfish and lazy.” Yes, life has disappointments. Yes, life has pain. But life is also filled with goodness, joys, and beautiful surprises. If we tend to look at life negatively, then Lent is a good time to get a new pair of glasses. Focusing on what’s right leads to gratitude.
Fasting from the need to control. Control is something we almost worship in our culture. It is one of our “idols.” We try to control everything—our waistline, our hair, our cholesterol, our wrinkles, our finances, other people, the future, and even God! During Lent we can practice letting go of thinking we are somehow in charge of the universe. Instead we can reaffirm our belief in Divine Providence which means: Ultimately God is in control. This takes trust.
Fasting from perfectionism. Perfectionism is the disposition that says anything short of perfect is unacceptable. Trying to be perfect takes a great toll—on ourselves and on the people we live and work with. We are never satisfied. More than that (as the proverb says), “The perfect can be the enemy of the good.” How many good things don’t get done because someone is afraid it won’t be good enough? The British writer G. K. Chesterton said: “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” It takes humility to accept our human limitations.
Fasting from self-centeredness. Kindness is a virtue that demands we put aside our own concerns and our own plans in order to assist someone else. Nearly everyone can be kind on a single occasion, but kindness becomes a real virtue when it becomes our ordinary way of being. Kindness is expressed in the concrete—in words, tone of voice, facial expression, and gesture. Remember that St. Paul begins his beautiful hymn to charity with the words, “Love is patient, love is kind.”
As we continue our Lenten journey, we might want to fast in these other ways. Who knows? This type of fasting might continue well beyond the season of Lent and into the rest of our life!