Telling Others What You are Giving Up….or not?

WHAT ARE YOU GIVING UP FOR LENT?” we girls would ask each other, walking home from school together all those years ago.

I am thinking about that annual conversation this morning as Lent is about to begin. Today’s YouVersion reading included an invitation from the Book of Joel to “return…with all your heart, with fasting…,” but the second reading contained a warning, an instruction about fasting, to keep it to oneself, not to make it obvious. In fact, to take care to keep it private.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting…” (Mt 6:16 NIV).

Back to my gaggle of girls. I recall those early years, the vows to forego candy or ice cream or soda. As we matured, the sweets turned to TV or the giving over of time to some good service. One friend chose to devote the late afternoon hours between school and dinner to play with younger siblings rather than avoid them. Impressive!

A few years ago a friend gave up email because she thought she was developing an addiction. This year, I’ve heard quite a few abstaining from or limiting exposure to social media.

Lent is a very individual thing, isn’t it?

As for the “whether to tell others”….
We would tell each other what we were giving up, most of us. And the telling met with a variety of consequences.

  • Sometimes we inspired each other’s thinking.
  • Sometimes we were an encouragement to each other.
  • Some in the group saw this sharing as an invitation to “police” everyone else, reminding them of their commitments just as they were about to violate them. Some appreciated this service. Others did not. Accountability is best when expressly asked for.
  • And then there were those who chose not to share at all. Hmmm.

I offer no tidy wrap-up on this one. Just wanted to toss the memory out there….and the verses. If you have thoughts on the topic of telling or not telling, I’d love to hear them.

* * *

Today’s readings: Joel 2:12-17 and Matthew 6:16-21.

YouVersion is a wonderful service that delivers a verse, passage or chapter each day right to your inbox or phone. (Yes, there’s an app for that!) Choose what you want, how often, whether you want reminders and when. Free.

About Marilyn

Reading, thinking and talking about leadership, writing, ESL for refugees, faith, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. My work has appeared in Moody Magazine, Leadership Journal, Guideposts, Upper Room and many other publications. I lead workshops in personal experience writing and accept speaking engagements as schedule permits. I also listen.
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4 Responses to Telling Others What You are Giving Up….or not?

  1. Fascinating, Marilyn, because I just finished setting up my blog posts for Lent, and I decided not to reveal what I’m doing this year until Week 4. Part of that is because I want to talk about past Lents, and part of it is to see how I do on this year’s discipline before I announce it.

    Whatever you take up or put down, may it be a fruitful time for you.

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  2. juliana says:

    I spent some time in serious thought about this and decided that I would tell the people that I would impact by my choice of what I was fasting and not make a general announcement (actually I knew I wouldn’t make a general announcement either way – it was deciding if and who I would tell that was the issue!) Today I ended up sharing what I decided to do with another friend who I hadn’t told initially because it ended up impacting her as well. I suspect there may be a few more conversations like that in the future and I’m ok with that. We’ll see how it goes!

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  3. Belinda says:

    I am on the fence. I wouldn’t make a point of bringing it up in conversation, but since you asked…I decided to give up “whatever it is” that would take the place of taking time for God. So that could be anything. If I haven’t had that time with him, then all else that is tugging at my sleeve and an optional choice must wait. I think that should become a habit by the end of Lent if practiced faithfully. Praying that it will. I will be the richer for feasting on God during the fast of Lent.

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