Giving Up Self-Neglect

March 2, 2024 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

Instead of giving up chocolate or fasting, sometimes I’ll say I’m giving up self-neglect for Lent…Dr Chanequa Walker-Barnes

Lent is special for me this year. I am giving up distracting habits. You know, the ones that consume the mind and the desires. I am seeking the Holy, not seeking to be holy. Never before has Lent been so special and my guess is that it will never be the same again. Such a fresh (and true) perspective.

The Problematic Focus on “Not Doing”

This year I began the Lenten Season at the Abbey. Each day about fifteen of us retreatants attended a brief presentation by one of the monks. On Day 2, Fr Patrick surprised us with his ideas about Lent as a “time of joy, not sorrow.” He reminded us that the whole purpose of the spiritual life is more about what who seek “to be” and not what we attempt to “not do.”

For me, focusing on “what not to do” characterizes the repressive teachings of religion. It’s as if we are sitting in the witness box at our own trial, trying desperately to defend our actions and beliefs. As if the goal of the whole exercise is all about receiving a reprieve from hell so that we end up in heaven.

In the Eyes of the Divine, You Are Not on Trial

The truth is, we are not on trial; love is not a competition and acceptance by the Divine is not some gamble on the roulette wheel of life. Life in the eyes of a gracious lover is more like an opportunity to be fully human. An opportunity to practice and demonstrate graciousness and generosity of spirit. I am thinking of kindness and acceptance of others in spite of their frailties because that is precisely what we all are seeking regularly—to be accepted and heard and cared for.

Therein is found the genesis of contributing to the personal value of those we encounter. What we seek first personally is most often the very same thing other people are seeking as well. Many refer to it as the human condition—broken of heart.

Loving Another Person Begins by Loving Yourself

And that is where Professor Chanequa Walker-Barnes offer deep wisdom when she confesses her Lenten sacrifice—to give up self-neglect. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh seems to agree when he advises…

The object of your practice should first of all be yourself… Your ability to love another person depends on your ability to love yourself.”

I’d rather be gentle with myself as a broken lover than live in an unfiltered world of self-flagellation. I am learning to be gentle with myself. My new friend poet/mystic Steve Garnaas-Holmes writes…

I am provided for. Everything is a gift. This is my Lenten fast: Be, without doing. Trust, without proving. Receive, without deserving.”

You are worth so much more than you can ever imagine. The tough part: You only understand your worth by wrestling with your demons of self-neglect. Just simply Be, without doing. Trust, without proving. Receive, without deserving.


Looks Too Much Like Self-Flagellation

Photo courtesy of AaronAmat at istockphoto

2 thoughts on “Giving Up Self-Neglect”

  1. Thank you! Again, the much needed to be heard message. I have been struggling this Lent with my ‘sacrifice’. Over the years I have given up just about everything; getting angry, chocolate, alcohol, spending, sex, coffee (which my daughter has banned me from ever giving up again), etc., so I thought about what keeps me away from Christ and really it is my to-do lists, have to’s, and responsibilities that takes up my energy and attention. At Congress this year, my friend and I after attending Terry’s talk, decided this year we were going to listen to his words of the Sacrament of the Present Moment and just be for a while, not adhering to our agenda/itinerary and we had the best experience. But now I am home and back on the treadmill of life. Maybe, just maybe, I am loved for just being me and not based on my productivity. Maybe it is ok not to check everything off the list and just be present to feel the love of God and let that spill into the world. I am so grateful to you and Terry for sharing your gifts to help others find their light and way. Blessings to you always.

    1. How nice to hear from you Yvonne. You encourage me greatly and I am honored to be able to serve you.

      I have a new goal for all of us: Let’s just be gentle with ourselves. Ignore that inner voice that may tell you otherwise. You are a child of the Beloved. And that is enough!

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