What About Self Denial? (More on Lent)

So yesterday I began to work through some ideas on sacrifice which started with a few comments from around the web.  Br. Jesse Alexander says, “Fasting is meant to teach us to say no to good things, so that when we do come up against bad things and sins we are practiced at saying no.”  At first glance, I’m not sure this is really true for me.  Honestly, there are enough bad things in my life, in my history, and affecting those I love that I don’t feel the need to “practice” dealing with bad things.  

And anyway, I don’t think of fasting this way.  To me fasting produces true empathy for those without enough to eat.  It is even heightened by giving the food I would have eaten to those who are hungry.  Br. Jesse’s definition sounds less like my view of fasting and more like self denial to me.  And self denial is something I certainly need to practice as I am a middle class American white woman who has many things just handed to me without any effort on my part.

Exercising self denial during Lent could definitely change the way I love God and my neighbors.  Saying no to bad habits is hard.  So practicing self denial could help to ground me in my relationships with those who are different from me.  It would also help me get better at saying no to things that are bad for me, for others, and for the environment.

What would self denial look like for you?


3 thoughts on “What About Self Denial? (More on Lent)

  1. Vera Shanti Giles

    My biggest stumbling block is confusing self-denial with self-negation: being too codependent to assert what I want, but instead just denying my own desires. So I’m working on this.Recently I decided to be gentler with myself by letting myself have what I want, but checking in about whether that was really wanted. So now I have several candy bars in the house. I am allowed to have them whenever I want, but when I think of one, I ask myself: is this actually what I want? Or do I want something else: more dinner, a friend, a hug, a moment with God? Surprisingly, so far it seems to be working. I hope I can stay in this self-compassionate space for a while longer.


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