Giving Up Materialism for Spirituality
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Well it’s that time of year again. It is the time of year when many Catholics, and some Protestants, figure out what they want to give up for the season of Lent. This is the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter that spans 40 days. Of course the basic principle of giving up something that you can otherwise do without, all for the sake of personal growth, does not have to be tied to Christianity or any other religion. You don’t even have to be a believer. All that is required is a commitment to growth and development of your character.
The first question we should ask is “why give up anything at all?” Many people don’t get into the practice of giving up anything. This is quite alright. You do not have to. For that matter the practice of giving up something just for the sake of giving up something is actually nothing but vanity. For example, someone was overheard recently saying they couldn’t think of anything to give up for Lent so they just chose to give up . . . condiments. Condiments? How does that affect your personal growth?
The Purpose Is Building Strength
So what is the actual purpose of giving up something for Lent? How do we decide what to give up or if we should give up anything at all? While looking at these two questions we should also look at what personal growth is which is basically the development of your character so as to raise your level of consciousness and overcome any life-controlling issues that are holding you back from personal success in life. It is primarily a spiritual practice but even nonbelievers, and Atheists or Agnostics, can practice these things too.
That being said the only thing that you should give up for Lent is whatever you feel is holding you back in life. If you are focusing on your relationship with God then you want to give something up for 40 days that hinders your walk with the Almighty. Many people are giving up Social Media because they spend too much time on sites like Facebook. In exchange they are going out more and becoming acquainted with life in the real world.
Fasting For The Soul
The practice of giving up something in religious and spiritual circles is called fasting. It is a spiritual cleansing that should be done occasionally to prevent overexposure to anything in lie. As noted earlier the purpose of fasting is for the sake of personal growth. If what we give up does not develop us in some way to make us better people, then it is pure vanity. For example, giving up condiments for 40 days. Giving up coffee might be more realistic being most coffee connoisseurs drink more than the daily recommended cups of coffee, which is only two or three, and the average person drinks 4-6 (or more).
All that being said if you cannot think of anything to give up for Lent then you probably don’t have anything in your life that controls you; that is anything that consumes your life or that you do to the point of excess. In this case don’t push yourself too hard to figure out what to give up. The basic spiritual principle is abstinence (which doesn’t always have to do with sex); the practice of abstaining or learning how to master our weaknesses. If we can go without it for a certain period of time then we show that we have more control over the object than it has over us. If whatever it is hinders our relationship to God then learning how to master it by doing without for a brief period of time actually strengthens our walk with God.
Although from the perspective of Christianity, God already provided the greatest sacrifice to mankind. Therefore making sacrifices for the sake of making sacrifices is a little legalistic; that is an overemphasis on following the letter of the law to the point of insanity. If we want to experience true freedom we should only pursue what we want to pursue. We should never pursue anything because we feel like we have to. This makes us feel limited and trapped and hinders our personal growth. That is the ultimate goal of personal growth: to experience true freedom by raising up our level of consciousness so that nothing holds us back from achieving our full potential in life. This is true freedom because it leaves us free to ourselves as we were created to be.
- Erwin Bishop