Lent: It’s Not a Self-Improvement Program

Feb 28, 2022 | Blog Posts

By Amber Kinloch

As we begin Lent this Wednesday, words like “cross,” “sacrifice,” “penance,” and “mortification” pepper homilies, the pages of spiritual reading material, and—hopefully—our thoughts.  People—even secular persons—contemplate various resolutions.  Most often, these are based on the idea of fasting from something like chocolate, alcohol, or social media.  Others focus on “positive” things like eating healthier, exercising more, or setting aside time for spiritual reading.

That is all well and good, but too often, perhaps, we treat the Lenten season as a self-improvement program.  Instead of seeking to draw closer to God, we end up seeking ourselves.  A classic example is someone giving up chocolate in order to lose weight.  Their focus is on an ulterior motive, not God.

Lent is not a self-improvement program.  It’s a season for meditating on how grievous sin is, on what Jesus suffered because of it, and on how we should respond.  It is a time to draw close to Christ by striving to root out sin from our lives and to do everything for love of God, not ourselves.

When we embark on Lent, we’re not looking at doing things just for a season.  Giving up chocolate is only a launching point.  The true goal should be to rid oneself of the vice of gluttony, to enjoy food and drink solely as God wills.

We need to focus on God.  If we don’t, we’re bound to fail.  This is why we give up so easily, or fall into bouts of anxiety or grumpiness.  This is why we go about things half-heartedly and end up resenting them instead of finding this mysterious joy amidst suffering that the saints talk about.  This is why we find life such a burden even when—if we’re honest—most of our daily difficulties make us suffer little.  We are not carrying the cross God intended for us.  Instead, we load ourselves down with self-imposed crosses.

Let’s ask God to purify us and grant us the grace to fix our eyes on Him, not ourselves.  With His help, we will make true progress and begin to uproot sin from our lives.  Then we will begin to prepare ourselves for Easter and, beyond that, Heaven.

Amber Kinloch

Amber Kinloch

Amber  writes from the bunker of her living room.  There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life.  Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.


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  1. william. d. baer

    A beautiful message for Lent and the rest of life. Thanks.

    • Amber Kinloch

      You’re welcome! I had the realization some months back that I was treating the spiritual life as a self-improvement program and I still struggle with that (and probably will for a while.) I could stand to have this reminder painted in bold, capital letters on my bedroom wall. 🙂


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