I grew up as a Catholic, fell away during my 20s, 30s, and 40s, and was blessed with a second chance when I was about 50 (I don't feel like taking time to do the math). Raised that way, we always "gave something up for Lent." Or, we tried to do something positive for those days.
Some of the Catholic rituals have good results. This one, I've always loved. It seemed to build character, strength, follow-through on a promise.
I learned early on to avoid promising God that I'd give up something if I was suspicious that I might not be able to follow through. One year, as a pre-teen, I went to Mass every day. Other years, I gave up candy. I was able to do that, lusting over the thoughts of my Easter Basket filled with jelly beans when Lent was over. As a child, I was a coffee drinker. I was never able, back then, to give that up for all of Lent.
The past two years, I gave up chocolate, promising the Lord I'd give it all up except for one small piece before bed - a mini-York patty, or a Pearson's Chocolate Parfait Nip, or a Tootsie Roll Midgie. Both years, I succeeded, even to a week or two past Easter. It felt so good to do that.
This year, I'm going to try character traits. I'm going to do a double-whammy. I'm hoping to give up "complaining" and "criticizing." That might be too much to ask of this sinner. But I'll give it a shot. It will be interesting to see how many times I fall on this journey. Something happened this morning, that I can't recall right now, but when I looked back, it seemed to me that it would be classed as "complaining." Great start, Evie (sigh).
Lord, your beloved son wandered the desert 40 days and 40 nights, giving up all creature comforts; help me, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to be a more pleasant person with my Lenten efforts, and forgive me and strengthen me each time I fall.