Why I’ve Given Up Giving Up for Lent – Wisdom from Our Network

Why I’ve Given Up Giving Up for Lent – Wisdom from Our Network

Here’s number #3 in our ‘Wisdom from Our Network’ series. This post is written by Leadership & Risk Consultant Martin Carter.


Denying ourselves some small – or big – pleasure is the traditional way of reflecting on the sacrifice of Good Friday before the celebration of Easter Sunday.

However, whether for traditional, superstitious, self-improvement or perhaps just self-proving reasons it’s no longer the preserve of the faithful; it’s common for people of faith, lapsed faith and no faith to ‘give something up for Lent’.

But Lent doesn’t need to be about stopping.  It can equally be about starting something.  Research suggests that it takes the average person about 40 days to form a new habit, whether it’s going to the gym, writing a daily blog post or phoning your mum.  So using the 40 days of Lent to consciously start something new could, in the long run, offer you many more benefits than just temporarily stopping something.

Hence a few years ago I gave up giving up, and tried starting something new for Lent instead.

I’m delighted to tell you that 2013 (eat a chocolate bar a day) and 2014 (drink a glass of wine with dinner) were both spectacularly successful.  2015 was a bit more of a struggle.  I wondered whether working on my behaviours and attitudes during Lent could have the same dramatic effect on my personality that chocolate and alcohol had had on my waistline and liver.  But how do you do that for 40 days?

As a leadership coach I’m familiar with the power of questions, especially questions that we can carry with us that help us reflect on how we are behaving compared to how we might want to behave.  So that seemed like a good plan.  But what questions?

Well, given it was Lent, I thought the Easter story might not be a bad place to start.  Rocket science this isn’t…

So for 40 days I reflected on the following four question arising from the behaviours of four key characters in the Easter story:

Judas who betrayed Jesus: Where in my life do I actively withdraw from, sabotage or destroy something that I had high hopes for when it doesn’t go the way I wished, expected or wanted?

The Sanhedrin who condemned Jesus: Where in my life do I faithfully observe the outward ceremonial or traditional aspects of my faith whilst harbouring malice, injustice or unfaithful actions or thoughts in my heart?

Pilate who sentenced Jesus: Where in my life do I choose the politically correct, expedient or self-serving solution or seek to ‘keep the peace’ rather than stand-up for what is right, honest or true?

Peter who denied Jesus: Where in my life do I vehemently, publicly and wholeheartedly commit to something which I subsequently fail to deliver on?  What sincere promises do I fail to keep?

So how did I get on?  Well, let’s just say that I’m planning to use these questions again this year…

What about you, anything that you’re going to be working on for the next 40 days?