Giving up vs. Doing good

I’m hoping someone may be able to correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve been seeing a trend lately in the different Catholic articles, presentations, etc. that state the topic loosely, “Don’t Just Give up Chocolate for Lent.” This has really been bothersome to me. I find it not only rather judgemental but erroneous. Sure, focus has gone more from giving up during Lent to doing good, but we do what we have the strength for.

You don’t know where others are on their faith journey. You dont know their level of courage or systematic way of their faith. They may be struggling at the end of their faith, trying to hold on and that’s all the strength they have to give. Or they are trying to return to the faith and that is the anchor they remember from when they are young. Everybody that is on a faith journey is unique and the person walking beside you may not be as strong. "Just giving up chocolate " may be one person’s “widow’s coin” and that’s all they can give.

Lots of worse things in the world to worry about, I know. Please tell me it’s presented with good intentions and I’m taking it the wrong way.


Here is another way to look at it perhaps.

For some people, giving up something is harder than doing something. So for them, doing something is another option, as opposed to them not being able to give up something.

Does that help frame it differently for you! Just do whatever you can, whether it’s giving up or doing something extra. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I think you’re right. But I think it goes both ways. Don’t just give up chocolate for Lent because it’s Lent and that’s what we do, but if you make that token offering, maybe that’s the best you can do, and maybe in a Lent or two or twenty, it’ll make you think of God.

God wants our best. The reality is that most of the time our best isn’t that good, and it certainly isn’t anywhere near perfect. So we give God the best that we can, and this pleases him. A child’s crayon drawing isn’t fine art, but the mother still receives it as an act of love and sees it as beautiful because of that.



I myself find it really helpful to ignore probably 98 percent of the Catholic articles, homilies etc discussing what one should or should not do for Lent.

Many of them seem to assume that people do nothing spiritual the rest of the year and that other than giving up chocolate or cigarettes, or going on a diet, people are clueless about how to do anything spiritual for Lent. This assumption doesn’t work very well for me personally. And Lent to me is THE most over-exposed topic in the Catholic Church.

I also generally do not talk about what I do penitentially for Lent (or any other time). It’s between me and God, and I don’t want to get into discussions where people are all comparing notes on how much they fast or pray or what kind of prayers they do and someone else should try them too, etc.

It is easy to get frustrated, for example when someone as you say is making what is for them a pretty mighty effort to give up chocolate and they get told that’s no good and they’re supposed to be out volunteering at the soup kitchen for Lent. The best way to bypass the frustration is to simply do what you do, between you and God, and do things all year round so Lent is a season where you perhaps ramp it up just a little instead of trying to do some big huge thing.


As the saying goes ‘Pray as you can; not as you cannot’.

Someone could give up 100 things for Lent or take on 500 good works; if it’s not bringing them closer to God it’s not working. In some cases it simply fuels pride. I’ve never understood why ‘fasting’ seems to take precedence over the other two pillars of Lent - alms giving and prayer.

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Because the Church has never specified a particular method of prayer and almsgiving for Lent. But it has for fasting (for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday today and all Fridays of Lent prior to Vatican II), and the Friday abstinence from meat follows that. It leads us to accept the fact that we have “give something up for Lent”.

If the Church had mandated centuries ago that everyone must attend Stations of the Cross of Friday evening under pain of sin, we would all be attending Stations and not thinking too much about it.


I guess you’re right there. There are still prayers which carry an indulgence only during Lent (I’m thinking in particular of the prayer before a crucifix on Friday) and fasting wasn’t just reserved to Lent; it was common before all the ‘big’ feasts. I suppose it’s just the way things have balanced out.

In the UK it’s still common for people to ‘give up for Lent’ even for people who are not religious. Not sure how I feel about that - in some ways it’s good to have that heritage as it may give pause for thought. In other ways it just turns it into a weight loss/health programme.

I think the challenge with the internet is that we all end up seeing EVERY message, whereas only some messages are the right ‘fit’ for us at any given time.

For me, I pretty much just have a filter in my brain now, and I scan past anything I know isn’t useful for me right now, and proceed with what is useful. I imagine that the other stuff is often useful for others, and may even be useful for me in future… it just isn’t right now, so I don’t disturb myself with it.

It’s an article. Someone’s opinion and advice on spiritual growth. Someone’s advice you are free to take or disregard.

Don’t read the article if it bothers you.

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In fairness, “Don’t give up chocolate (or whatever) for Lent” has been a pervasive theme I’ve noticed over the last couple Lents. It was in many articles, in Church bulletins, in homilies, it is even the advertising catchphrase for the “Best Lent Ever” Dynamic Catholic/ Matthew Kelly Lenten program that many churches use. It’s pretty hard to avoid it; you hear it everywhere.

As I said, it seems to be targeting people who don’t have a very deep spirituality and challenging them to think more about Lent. It’s not all that helpful to the group of people, rather large at this point IMHO given that Church attendance has dropped off and those who still go tend to be among the more zealous, who are already at a deeper level of spirituality than the Matthew Kelly level.

It is still possible to ignore it, but it takes some effort.

Of course they say it with good intentions. I’d imagine what they are really saying is that we should TRY to take it a step further. One way to do this is offering the chocolates we are giving up for those who suffer from hunger or maybe for strengthen for those who work in the missions.

That annoys me too especially as giving up chocolate for me is harder than anything else because I eat so much of it. Also, it makes me feel that all the years that I gave it up seems pointless if they make statements like this and feel what’s the point?

Now that Lent is right around the corner have you considered rather than “giving up chocolate” that maybe try moderating how much chocolate you eat during Lent? Whatever people do for Lent after all is supposed to help us to come closer to Jesus in our spiritual life. If you can practice moderating your consumption of chocolates/sweets for Lent maybe you would be able to continue to moderate the intake when Lent is over.

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