lent sign

What I Am Trying To Give Up For Lent

A reflection on her Lenten practice by Hilary Hopkins, a member of First Church.

So last year, in Lent, Carlyle hosted a small group that was focused on the practice of self-denial during Lent. I was hesitant about joining this group, until Carlyle explained that thing one could think of renouncing during Lent did not have to be, you know, chocolate or playing Solitaire on one’s phone. But that instead it could be something less tangible. “Oh!” I thought to myself, “I am trying to change my behavior—maybe this is a perfect opportunity to learn new ways.”So I joined the group, and I tried to give up scorn for Lent.

Scorn means to have contempt or disdain, to be derisive towards something you feel is despicable, contemptible, unworthy or inferior. Can’t you just feel your lip curling and your nose wrinkling as you read those words?

Scorn is a particularly insidious and ugly behavior. Being scornful of someone implies that you think you are much, much better than they are. That your own views and behaviors are vastly superior to those of the person you scorn, and in fact, that their ways are quite worthless.

Being scornful makes you feel just so right and the other person so wrong.

However, there is a problem about scorn that is good to recognize: what does the person you scorn think about YOU? Uh-oh.

In my practice of giving up scorn, I learned that I could say to myself, well, that woman wearing that outfit looked at herself in the mirror this morning and thought she looked really terrific. Or, that person I hear on TV saying those things really believes them, in exactly the same way as I believe what I say.

I practiced thinking this way, turning around my perceptions of people whose behavior I might previously have scorned. It felt really good!! That nasty scorn-twist in my gut was gone. Lent came and went last year, and I still try to re-form my thoughts in that way.

And now it is Lent, again, and I am still working on giving up scorn, and trying to replace it with compassion. We are all just doing the best we can, each of us, and none of us is deserving of scorn. It is easy to have compassion for some people, and more difficult to have it for other people. But you gotta try.