A path to self-growth through Lenten sacrifice


Lindsay Taylor '24

Lent is a 40-day period of sacrifice to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christians around the world began their annual celebration of Lent March 2 in preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to christianity.com.  In the tradition of Lent, numerous Christians renounce something to demonstrate their devotion to God.  However, many choose to give up something as part of a routine, rather than engaging in sacrifice to become more pious and less materialistic.  Instead of forgoing something that is easy or not especially meaningful in their lives, Christians can use Lent as an opportunity to end negative habits and carry forward an improved version of themselves. 

The practice of Lenten sacrifice originates from Jesus’ praying and fasting during his 40 days in the desert, described in the gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, according to bbc.co.uk.  While preparing for His death on the cross, Jesus experienced temptations from Satan to turn away from God.  Jesus’ self-discipline inspires Christians to also participate in self-sacrifice for God. 

Satan tempts Jesus during his 40-day fast in the desert.  Courtesy of bbc.co.uk.

Christians across the globe practice “giving up” as a yearly Lenten tradition.  However, as soon as Lent is over, many resume the habits that they renounced during Lent.  Although modern practices of Lent symbolize Jesus’ own self-sacrifice on the cross, it may not fulfill the original purpose of the tradition.  Jesus did not perform His sacrifice as part of a tradition, but as a way to strengthen His faith and become more self-disciplined.  After leaving the desert, Jesus took the strength He gained with Him for the rest of His life. 

The true purpose of eschewing habits or practices for Lent is for participants to better themselves and become more self-controlled.  Christians often give up that which they find the most challenging or that which will materially benefit them, rather than focusing on renouncing something that will lead to meaningful growth, according to The New York Times.

Ms. Jimin Kang, an Oxford graduate in Comparative Literature, decided to give up the English language for Lent, according to The New York Times.  Although English was a vital part of her everyday life and education, Ms. Kang used Lent as an opportunity to self-reflect and grow.  She gave up all forms of communication in English to enhance her mastery of Korean, her parents’ native language, according to The New York Times.  Although Ms. Kang is fluent in both Korean and Chinese, she is most comfortable using English, which became her dominant language during her childhood. 

“I knew Korean, Chinese, and English by the age of ten, but I could not speak all of these languages in the breezy, cosmopolitan way I wanted,” Ms. Kang said, according to The New York Times.  “Instead, the three asserted a hierarchy in which English became dominant, challenging my relationships with people and traditions closest to my heart.”

English became Ms. Kang’s primary language, despite its strain on her relationship with her loved ones and her faith.  When she was a child, her parents would take her to a Korean Catholic Church.  However, she could never truly understand the priest’s sermons, according to The New York Times.  She believes that her lack of comprehension hindered her connection with God.

A priest officiates Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season. Courtesy of scotsman.com

By giving up her first language, Ms. Kang was able to better connect with the people in her life who are not fluent in English and to prioritize her faith, according to The New York Times.  While it was difficult for her to give up communicating in English, it allowed her to connect with her parents in Korean in the same way they had tried to communicate with her in English, according to The New York Times.  As a result, Ms. Kang was able to foster a closer relationship with her family that continued after the conclusion of Lent.  Her growth into a more empathetic person models the true purpose of surrendering for Lent.

The best way to practice Lent is to give up a negative weight on one’s life to become a holier and more disciplined person.  Renouncing something for Lent is a personal process.  The most important aspect of the renunciation of bad habits is that it encourages individual growth, which is different for each participant in Lent. 

Lent is a season of preparation and reflection in which proper self-discipline and the sacrifice of toxic habits can improve a person’s life.  Christians can choose to use this season to help better themselves, while also building community and focusing on strengthening the relationships in their life. 

Featured Image by Lindsay Taylor ’24