Wednesday, March 05, 2014

I love you, Newt Gingrich

About 15 years ago, just after officially becoming a Christian with a Capital C, I tried an experiment for Lent - my first official Lent as a baptized Christian. I decided to give up saying mean things about people. This happened to coincide with starting a new job at Talbots World Headquarters - that's a story in and of itself - with a bunch of people who didn't know me from Eve. And so a curious thing happened. In refraining from being a snarky, gossipy bitch around this new group of colleagues, everyone at work started to assume that I was a really nice person. And not really nice in the way that I already am (and was) really nice. Really nice in that almost saintly way. The "oh she wouldn't say a bad word about anybody" way. And it was WEIRD. I didn't even say mean things about Newt Gingrich. At first I had to bite my tongue so hard I'm surprised there is anything left of it. Of course, eventually, the practice became a habit and then the habit became just a natural way of being, and I got really good at refraining from joining in when the conversation got gossipy or mean. I was highly skilled at steering the topic in a different direction, or finding a way to excuse myself. The unintended consequence of my Lenten Practice was that people I worked with were forming opinions about me - and my true self - that weren't exactly true. I felt like an impostor, and that left me feeling at times uncomfortable. But overall I really enjoyed not talking shit about people. It was - liberating.

And of course, just as easily as that all started to come to me, when Lent was over, I slowly slipped back into my bitchy ways. I have no idea what my new friends at Talbots thought about my transformation - or if they even noticed it. I must have told some of my new friends what I was doing, over-sharer that I am, but I don't really remember. What I do remember are those six sort of magical weeks when I refrained from unkindnesses. And what I've wondered ever since is why I didn't just keep going.

This year I'm taking that same practice but stepping it up a notch. Honestly, I'm not exactly sure how it will work, or what it will look like on a daily basis, but here's the basic concept which I will probably have to write down and post everywhere around me to keep myself on course:

"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"
- Matthew 5:44

I don't know what this looks like exactly, but I do know it's more active than passive. It's not refraining, it's loving. It's not withholding, it's praying for. And I like that. We'll see how it goes.

I'm also giving up meat.

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