Don’t Substitute Vice For Vice

11 Mar

“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

We all know people who have quit smoking.  What seems to be the one universal worry and/or thing that happens to them?  They end up gaining weight.  Why?  Because they substitute putting a cigarette in their mouths with putting food or candy in their mouths in an attempt to quell the urge to smoke.  At some doctor’s appointment down the line, the same doctor that told them they needed to quit smoking will begin to tell them they need to lose weight.

What often happens to us when we attempt to rid ourselves of a bad habit is that we develop a different bad habit.  There are those who say it is because the habit might be fulfilling some kind of need deep within.  Unless we address that need, we will develop habits to fulfill the perceived need.

Thus it goes with Lent.  There are many who say that they are going to give something up for Lent.  There are things that happen to them as they do.  If they give up coffee or soft drinks, for example, they may go through a period of withdrawal from caffeine.  When that happens, they may look for something to replace that which they gave up and, at the same time, look forward to having what they gave up once Lent is over.

Our sacrifices are supposed to make us a different people, a better people.  If we merely wait until we can embrace the old within us, we really are not changing.  What we do in Lent should lead us to a deeper relationship with God and add virtue, not vice, to our lives.  If we substitute one vice for a vice that we have given up for Lent, the season will have been wasted.  If we look forward to going back to our old way of life once Lent is over, we miss the value and meaning of Easter.

There are those who, instead of giving something up, choose to do a positive good during Lent such as visiting the sick, reaching out to those in need, and the like.  But if we return to a former way of life once Lent is over, if we quit reaching out to others or doing good for others, we have missed the meaning of the season.

Lent is more than forty days and forty nights.  Done right, Lent should be a life-changer.

FAITH ACTION:  Make sure that the habits from which you refrain this Lent are replaced by virtues.