Don’t Waste Your Lent Giving Up Chocolate

If you’re reading this post, it’s probably close to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

If you’re Catholic, without a doubt you’ll be asked, “What are you giving up?”

And, 99% of the time the answer will come back, “Chocolate!”

Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good fast as much as the next guy (unless that guy is St. Francis).

But I believe there’s more productive things to do during Lent than giving up chocolate–and I’m going to tell you why!

Lent…it’s like training camp

Lent is like spiritual training camp. 

Every summer, football teams go to training camp. It’s an intense time when they work out extra hard to get in shape for the regular season. They do conditioning, drill the fundamentals, work on key skills, and scrimmage.

They do all these things during the season too, but training camp is intensive training. It gets them really ready for the big games.

During Lent, we’re in intensive training for the big day–Easter! That’s the highest celebration of the whole year. We have to be ready.

What do you work on during Lent?

During Lent, we work to purify ourselves–get rid of sin and/or sinful tendencies.

The Lenten spiritual disciplines (giving stuff up) are like the conditioning drills in training camp. Instead of strengthening the body for resisting tackles, they strengthen the will for resisting our sinful tendencies.

The root of all sin is disordered self-love. It’s disordered because we love ourselves and what we want more than we love God and what he wants for us. Ordered self-love makes God, and his ways, the priority.

Ironically, ordered self-love sometimes means you don’t get what your “self” loves. That’s because we often make bad choices.

The temptation not to follow God can be strong and, let’s face it, we’re weak. Our disordered selves love to give in to sin. It feels really good at the time, but it’s really bad for you.

It can’t be allowed to live!

Disordered self-love can’t merely be tolerated. It can’t be allowed to live! It must be killed! Mortified!

Mortifications are penances that involve self-denial. In Latin, mortis means death. Mortification “puts to death” sinful tendencies and desires. In the spiritual life you’re like James Bond–licensed to kill!

So, why not give up chocolate for Lent? Giving up chocolate is not bad. It’s denying yourself something that your “self” loves. That indirectly strengthens the will to fight your sinful tendencies.

But there’s a more direct way. Figure out your biggest fault and attack that directly.

  • Do you get angry a lot? Give up arguing back. Stay silent when someone attacks you.
  • Are you envious and resentful of coworkers? Compliment them when they do a good job on something.
  • Do you buy too many clothes? Give up clothes shopping.
  • Have a problem with internet porn? Try fasting completely from those sites.

Lenten spirituality takeaway

Go ahead and give up chocolate if you want to, but that’s not really training camp. That’s not going all “007” on your sin!

Lent is the time to attack and kill. It’s about shock and awe!

Then, hopefully, you’ll build up enough strength through concentrated effort to even get rid of those chronic faults. Or, at the least really lessen their hold on you.

I mean, if you’re giving stuff up, you might as well make it count.

Besides, chocolate is the world’s most perfect food. Why would you give that up?

Image credit: Madeleine


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  1. Well said, Marc! But then I guess you know I’m already on board with this way of thinking.

    I’ll have some additional thoughts later today on my own blog!


  2. And cocoa beans around the world rejoiced! Great post, Marc!

  3. Marc, I love the idea of going “all 007 on your sins” during Lent! You’re right…giving up chocolate is fine but so very trite.

  4. Well done, Marc! Check out my blog post along the same lines!


  5. I still think giving up chocolate (or ..whatever) is like weight-lifting–just to make you stronger for working on faults. There’s also a weird thing about how eating chocolate (or whatever our favorites are) makes it easier to be nicer or handle life (especially for moms!), and without it you realize you’re not so great, after all, and maybe you need to rely on God more. Does that make sense?

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      That does make sense. I don’t totally disagree with you. Any time you make a positive act of the will over your lower nature, you’re building virtue. It is like weight-lifting. Every little action makes you stronger.

      I’m just advocating for a more concentrated effort at your major faults during Lent. The other thing is, I see people just giving up chocolate without any thought to what they’re doing. It just becomes another mindless Catholic ritual. There’s a science to spirituality. Lent seems like a good time to ramp it up but with purpose. So, whereas giving up chocolate is a more generalized effort, there’s ways of getting more laser focused. Of course, anytime you work on one virtue, the others are affected as well. In that way you’re right, it is beneficial.

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