Maria’s Sunday Paper: What I’m Giving Up For Lent This Year

On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, my pastor asked all of us at church to start thinking about Lent. What might we do this Lenten season, and what might we give up, he asked?

His sermon really got me thinking. In the past, I’ve used Lent as an opportunity to give up things that I loved. Things that might sound simple and slightly ridiculous, but that were actually quite hard for me to cut out. It was Swedish fish one year. Popcorn and licorice another. Last year, I gave up chips and guacamole (my all-time favorite).

What I’ve learned from Lent over the years is that stopping something cold does make a difference. It doesn’t matter what you give up. Your relationship with whatever has a hold on you will change, no matter what it is. And so, as I thought about all of this last Sunday, I wondered: what vice do I have right now that has too much of a hold on me? Then, out of the blue, it came to me. The answer is self-doubt.

Yes, I have self-doubt. Yes, I question myself. Yes, I question the decisions that I make — big and small — way more than I care to admit. But, I’ve come to think and to feel that self-doubt is really harmful. It’s cruel, it’s critical and it’s mean. It’s also bad for my health — my physical health, my mental health, and my spiritual health.

And so, I decided right then and there to kick the habit. Then Ash Wednesday came —  the day I was to begin — and the school shooting in Parkland, FL, happened. That led me back to church, trying to make sense of such a senseless tragedy.

I sat there trying to think about whether I should stick with giving up self-doubt for Lent. It just seemed so trivial in the wake of 17 people being killed. Then, I stopped myself cold. No, I was sure. Self-doubt is exactly what I should give up during these confusing and troubling times.

Giving up self-doubt is the right thing for me for many reasons, but it’s especially important now because I don’t want to spend any more of my precious time alive on this earth doubting myself.

I don’t want to spend my living, breathing, and thinking time going back and forth in my mind and with my mind. I don’t want to whittle hours away doubting myself, confusing myself, and diminishing myself and my light. Instead, I want to spend my time thinking about the concrete, valuable things that I can say and do with my time and my voice now.

Like, here’s one: Why the hell can’t we all agree that assault weapons have no place in our country?

None of us needs to own an assault weapon. No one. Why can’t we just say to our lawmakers: accomplish this one thing for God’s sake? And, if you don’t, we the people will defeat you!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. In my mind, if you can’t support getting rid of this one thing, then you don’t deserve to call yourself a representative of the people.

We the people — the vast majority of us, anyway — don’t want these assault weapons sold on our streets. We don’t want them sold on the Internet, at gun shows, or anywhere. We especially don’t want them sold to 18-year-olds.

Oh, and if you’ve bought one already, let’s make it a law that you have six months to turn it in. We the people will buy them back from you and burn them and melt them.

I actually don’t think this is a big ask. At this point, it’s like what I say to my kids, “I’m not asking you. I’m telling you. This is the way it’s going to be!”

That’s right. This is where we are now. Because asking hasn’t delivered any solutions. Because endlessly debating the pros and cons of changing our gun laws hasn’t gotten us anywhere. Because doubting ourselves about what to do hasn’t made a difference.

We doubt ourselves and we ask ourselves, is there something wrong with us? No, there isn’t. There is something wrong with lawmakers who are beholden to the NRA or other groups. There is something wrong with our system if the FBI received a tip about Nikolas Cruz in January and didn’t pursue it. There is something wrong if we refuse to look to other parts of the world for lessons on how we can fix this out-of-control problem. Like in Europe, where Germany has successfully increased funding for in-school psychologists and conducts psychological tests on anyone under 25 who wants to purchase a gun.

Banning assault weapons is low-hanging fruit. This is one thing that we can get done. I actually have no doubt that this is a good move for the best of us. It’s the right move to make, right now.

And now that I’m several days into my whole “ditch the self-doubt” thing, I’ve come to realize that my doubt was like a fog over my fire. With certainty comes clarity. Then, comes action. That’s empowering.

Doubt makes your mind go around in circles. It’s paralyzing. It makes you think, “There is nothing I can do… Those elected representatives know more than me…” Wrong.

Today, there is no doubt in my heart and mind that I am never going to vote for a human being who doesn’t oppose assault weapons. I’m never going to vote for an elected official who doesn’t speak out against domestic violence. I’m never going to vote for someone who doesn’t believe that climate change is real. I’m never going to vote for someone who won’t fund NIH research into crippling diseases. I’m never going to vote for a person who runs the White House with people who can’t get security clearances and who can’t admit when they’ve made a mistake. I’m never going to vote for someone who uses their voice to sow doubt in facts and confuse the American people. And, while I’m at it, yes, I’d fire Gen. Kelly if he were my chief of staff. But I’m not his boss, so I guess he’s safe.

Now, before you wonder, “Who the hell does she think she is saying this stuff?” Let me answer that for you.

I’m smart and I’m strong. I’m tender and I’m tough. I’m compassionate and I’m caring. I’m confident and I’m clear. I’m someone who, in the past, allowed my better judgment to occasionally get taken over by self-doubt, only to realize that I was right all along.

Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Yes, I have flaws. But I’m no longer afraid of either. That’s what makes me wise to the world, wise to people, and wise to how to get stuff done. Today, I am a focused, centered, calm, and committed spiritual woman. I am a powerful, loving force of nature. And after Wednesday’s tragedy, I’m pissed with a capital P.

I may not have all the answers, but I’m not going to doubt what I know in my heart to be true. Not anymore. Self-doubt doesn’t go along with how I want to see myself today, nor should it go along with how you see yourself, either. Don’t wait as long as I did to give it up and feel your power.

Tell me, what did you give up for Lent?