If you have been perfect this Lent, kept all your commitments, increased compassion, and loved more passionately, then you can skip this blog. (Take care! See you next week!)
OK now for the rest of us…
I hope you failed at something this Lent. Failure can be more powerful than “Lenten success”. Here’s why: While our attachments to alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and social media can be destructive, far worse is our attachment to control and perfection. These deadly attachments can leave us worse when Lent is over than when we began for two main reasons:
First, if we are attached to perfection and control then we will never try big and difficult things. And when we won’t try big and difficult things, we can’t grow in big ways, because big tries usually end in failure. Edison “failed” thousands of times but kept trying. People successfully recovering from drug addiction know that most early attempts at recovery initially fail. The only way to do succeed in something big is to fail many times first.
Second, our attachment to control and perfection kill vulnerability. And vulnerability is the only way to experience the connections with God and other people that we most need. This is why Jesus tells us that God desires mercy, not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13), Paul reminds us that the key to living strong is to embrace weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) and Dr. Brene Brown emphasizes “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy courage, empathy, and creativity.”
How, then, can we prune away our attachment to control and perfection and plant seeds of courageous trying and vulnerability:
- Do one small and difficult thing in an area we are resisting. Resisting exercise? Go to one exercise class. Resisting fasting? Skip one meal and pray instead. Resisting reconciling with an estranged friend or family member? Write one note. Can’t do any of these? Make one appointment with a friend, pastor or therapist.
- Embrace vulnerability. Find a person or place to tell the truth about an area of shame or secrecy. If Catholic hit a Reconciliation service. If not find a friend. If it’s serious we might want to start with a therapist. Remember, we are only as sick as our secrets.
While our Lenten “success” is awesome and ought to be celebrated, now is a good time to embrace and share our “failures”. Let’s embrace how unfinished we all are, and not run from our humanity. And, most of all, remember that you are deeply loved, regardless of how “successful” Lent was.