Michelle Martin

What are you giving up?

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when Catholics ask each other what they are giving up for Lent.

For years, my go-to sacrifice was chocolate. It’s cliché, I know, but for me, it really is a sacrifice. I love chocolate, pretty much any chocolate but especially dark chocolate. Even though I’m diabetic, I make sure I can fit a little bit of chocolate into my diet most days. Doing without it means giving up something I’ll miss.

It would be especially hard this year, with Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day. Sure, we’re supposed to fast on Ash Wednesday, but think of the opportunity to buy marked-down heart-shaped packages of chocolate the following day!

I’ve also had years (in my pre-diabetes days) of giving up eating between meals or snacking. Now, snacks are planned into my diet and balanced with insulin; any unplanned snacks happen because I’m hypoglycemic and eating isn’t really a choice. I’ve also given up meat for all of Lent, not just Fridays, but that was probably more difficult for my husband and the rest of my family than for me.

In any case, Lenten sacrifices are not supposed to be diet plans. I’m pretty sure if your goal is to lose weight during Lent, you’re doing it wrong.

The goal of Lenten sacrifices, as I understand it, is to re-order your priorities, to think about what is in the center of your life and how to make sure that your relationship with God stays there. As much as not eating chocolate for 40 days requires self-discipline, I’m pretty sure chocolate is not interfering with my relationship with the divine.

To paraphrase a popular misquote of Benjamin Franklin, chocolate is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

I think this year, I will try to focus more on what I think God wants me to do. That means, in my case, thinking before I speak so as not to blurt out hurtful things. It means remembering that I am called to love other people, not to sit in judgment of them. It means to worry less about whether I am nice, and more about whether I am kind.

I suppose that means I am giving up being snarky in the hope that others will think me clever. Or, at least, trying to give it up.

Then, when Easter comes, I promise not to celebrate by saying mean things about people. First, it wouldn’t be much of a celebration; I’d end up feeling terrible. Second, the things we are called to do during Lent — the sacrifices, in addition to prayer and almsgiving — are all things we should do all the time. We’re just reminded during Lent to refocus on them, to remember what we are here for and what we are called to do.

Whether or not we eat chocolate.


  • lent
  • family life