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A Negativity Fast

Because next Wednesday (February 22) is Ash Wednesday, Lenten resolutions are on my mind.

As you know, it’s a longstanding custom among many Christians to make resolutions during Lent: to resolve to “give something up” in the 40+ days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, as well as to resolve to “take something on” during that time.

The most traditional areas to “give up in order to take on” are “Prayer, fasting, and alms-giving,” long considered three essential elements of Christian spirituality.

Now, of course, it’s great that, for example, many people will be resolving to give up a half hour of Facebook or television, and give that time to prayer.

And of course it’s great that many people will be giving up alcohol, or sweets, or snacks, or workaholism, and by so doing, get in touch with the many ways we try to fill our God-shaped hole with something other than God (or attempt to numb the pain of our emptiness).

And of course it’s great that many people will be giving up casual shopping or buying “nice-to-haves” and shopping only for “need-to-haves” during Lent, and donating the money saved to the poor.

But in addition to those traditional disciplines, I wonder if there’s another kind of fast we should be thinking about, something along the lines of what author/pastor Steve Backlund calls a “negativity fast.”

A negativity fast is fasting from negative thoughts and speech, and replacing those thoughts and speech with thoughts and speech that build up.

When thinking about “fasting from negativity,” it’d be tempting to focus on how you view others, or the outside world: world events, politicians, the economy, or other people close to you.

But a negativity fast would begin with the realization that people are more negative toward themselves than anything else.

So – as is often the case with making any kind of change in the world – the best place to begin is with ourselves. On getting the negativity off of our self – those lies we tell ourselves about ourselves, the little negative tapes we’ve memorized that are not from the Holy Spirit but some other spirit. Get that off of you, and then you’ll view the world differently.

Whatever is true…whatever is noble…whatever is right…whatever is pure…whatever is lovely…whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about those things,” Paul says in Philippians.

Especially if done in conjunction with the traditional disciplines of praying, fasting, and giving, following Paul’s advice to dwell – live in – the positive realm would be a great Lenten discipline.

So I’m in.

How about you?


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