“You must certainly beware of just revising, not reducing, your pleasures. You can see some people searching out unusual liquors as a substitute for the usual wine. The result is that the observance of Lent means, not the repression of old lusts, but the occasion for new enjoyments.” ~ St. Augustine
Substitutions. That is something that happens to many people at Lent. They look at what they are going to give up — what kind of vices they will eschew — and immediately turn to the adoption of a new vice to replace the one given up. That is not the definition of a winning Lent. That is, rather, the definition of a fail.
There are so many vices out there just waiting to lure us in. So many temptations swirling around in the world and in our minds. When we give up a particular vice, we often lean on another. The classic example of this would be those who give up smoking.
There is a certain oral fixation to smoking. The smoker has to have something in his or her mouth. Quite often, when someone gives up smoking, they begin chewing gum or eating candy. They may rid themselves of one vice bad for their heart and lungs but they add another vice that puts on the pounds, thus jeopardizing the heart.
We do that in our spiritual lives as well. When we try to give up something that leads us to sin, we find ourselves turning to something else that will more than likely lead us to sin as well. That is because we like the immediate gratification that comes from our sin. We do not want to be without.
Augustine warns us about replacing one vice for another in our Lenten journey and his warning is spot on in my books. Lent is nearing the finish line. We begin Holy Week this coming Sunday. Use the remaining time of Lent to take a good look at yourself and at your relationship with God. Have you swapped vices this Lent rather than ridding yourself of vice?
You still have time to work on removing all the habits and vices that keep you from God. Use your remaining time well.
FAITH ACTION: Make your Lenten observances have meaning to your spiritual life so that you may grow farther from sin and closer to God.