Why I won’t give up sugar for Lent

Picture4It starts with the slide of the door along carpet. The little footsteps. My glance at the clock proves right – it’s too early to be up.

Anger rolls over beside me, rubbing its eyes.

We eat breakfast, and the yogurt is the wrong color. The wind is sending ghostly whips of snow across the yard. The twins wake up in the middle of my first cup of coffee, owlish and out of sorts. The laundry pile has reached epic proportions. There’s enough milk for one more bowl of cereal.

Anger simmers, waiting.

And then it happens. My toddler and I square off against something meaningless – not wanting to wear pants, giving up her nook, taking something from her baby sisters.


I fear this ever-present emotion that overtakes me most days. Honestly, it makes me want to give up. Until today. Because today, I’m deciding to give IT up instead.


Some people give up sweets for Lent. Others give up coffee, pop, or caffeine in its entirety. Huffington Post suggested fried food, cigars, or devices.

I can’t help this nagging feeling that something about this is all a little off. If I give up something I enjoy in order to remind myself of Jesus, and then I start wanting that thing but can’t have it because I’m remembering Jesus, I’m going to get cranky. And if I’m cranky, I’ll start associating semi-bitter or negative feelings with Easter.

That seems a little, well, backwards.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m not strong enough to work past the unhappy feelings I think I’d have if I gave up something I really enjoyed. Weak character? Faulty theology? Blatant misunderstanding? All very possible.

But if Lent truly is a season “to rid ourselves of all that prevents us from living a truly Christian life”, I have to wonder how far giving up little luxuries like sugar and meat and cigars is going to go.

This year, I want to try something different. This year, I’m giving up anger for Lent.

No more yelling.

No more face flushing, fast pulsing, blood pressure spikes.

No more disappointments that burrow into a den of resentment.

I live with the flashing of anger every day. I also eat sweets and drink caffeine. None of them are particularly good for me. Here’s where I see the difference though. I know how to tame my cravings for sugar and coffee into moderation. But anger is never moderate. I never feel halfheartedly mad.

When anger comes, it overtakes everything. It is mental and it is physical. It affects my ability to love those around me, and it crowds out my capacity to carry grace.

If I’m going to give something up to better remind myself of the meaning of Easter, shouldn’t it be something that Jesus himself asked of his friends? For example – in the garden on the night of his arrest, Jesus told his disciple Peter, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

Here’s where I’m going with this. I’ve celebrated Easter since before I could eat Cadbury eggs. But this year, I want it to be different. I want more from the story, because soon I’ll be teaching it to my little girls. And in order to be a good story-teller, I need to engage with the story.

I don’t want to just read a few verses, go to a couple of services, and call it good. If I think this story of redemption and grace is important in my life, I need to LIVE in the mystery of the plot. For me, and for this Lent season, that means cutting out something that separates me from living in grace.

Right. So, it’s all fine and good to talk churchy and idealistic, but I also need to have a plan. Here are some tools I’m hoping to employ.

Going to bed earlier. I can’t stop the girls from getting up in the middle of the night. Nor can I convince Ellis to stop getting up earlier and earlier. But mama, it’s light outside! But my ability to rein in negative emotions is severely impaired when I’m tired. So early bedtime it is. Like 9:00 early. Sigh. I’ll clean my house another year.

Void_Space_by_Maandersen Image replacement. This is a little weird, but I want to have an image in my head to replace my feelings of anger when they come. Call it a new focal point – something to keep me steady. My image is going to be a space void. Yep. A big, open, solar void. I’m smart enough to know I won’t be able to replace mad feelings with happy feelings. But mad feelings with nothing? With space? With silence? With void? I don’t know why, but I think it can work.

Deep breathing. This is completely rote, but it also works. If I can remember to close my eyes and take a solid, in-through-the-nose-out-through-the-mouth breath, I will give myself pause enough to assess the situation, think about the void, and slowly back down.

Prayer. Nothing flowery. Straight up “God REALLY please help me out here” will do the trick.

Redirection. Once I’m off the ledge, I want to remember why I’m doing this in the first place. I want to remember the story of Jesus in the season of Easter. Not to be a better person, but to be a stronger believer. A sturdier story-teller.

It’s a tall order, and to be unabashedly honest, I’m not sure how it’s going to go. Anger comes when I’m tired. It rears after the babies having been screaming in tandem for more than five minutes. It’s red hot when Ellis dumps bowls of spaghetti sauce on the floor, or kicks me in the chin when I’m trying to cajole her into pajamas. It stews quietly when the temperature drops and we’re all faced with another day inside the house.

But Lent was meant to be a challenge. A challenge to deny myself for the sake of the cross. So why not deny a character quality I want to prune out? Why not choose something I want to keep giving up after the 40 days of Lent are over?

Why not do something that makes me more like the Jesus I want to remember?


Do you have a great idea of something to give up for Lent? I’d love to hear what it is, and why you picked it.

183 thoughts on “Why I won’t give up sugar for Lent

  1. I am sitting here with my mouth hanging open, tears forming in my eyes. Thank you for this beautiful post. May I join you in giving up the anger for Lent? This. Is. Awesome.


  2. Wishing you success. Anger management is not easy and as people have said, its a normal emotion, but its how its expressed and handled that matters. I found too that getting plenty of sleep is very important and deep breathing definately helps, as does standing back from a situation even if only for a few seconds (hide in the bathroom if you have to..lol!) Young children are extraordinarily demanding and unaware of the needs of their mom. Its the toughest job on the planet!! And having twins must be double trouble …as well as lots of joy I’m sure! Another good tip is to keep a record of emotional patterns, triggers and reactions. That way, you begin to see what set’s off the explosions and you can sidestep those situations more easily. And do try to have a little bit of time to nurture yourself, and to find the supports that help you with your busy life. Wishing you happiness.


  3. I was just thinking about this kind of thing! How it just doesn’t feel right to give up sugar or caffeine because lent isn’t about “going on a diet” and then getting mad about it, it’s about renewal, being a better version of ourselves, and remembering Jesus’s sacrifice through it all. This year I decided to give up my bed, which might sound strange, but as I sit on the hard ground, I realize how for so many people this is the norm, and it has made me more grateful for what I already have. It sounds weird, but this is actually bringing me closer to my faith.


  4. I couldn’t help but share this. I love your heart and passion for the true spirit of Lent. Not only that however, but the calling that faith holds us to; namely, living in a way that reveals Jesus in and around us.

    Living in the 1st world condition makes learning how to follow Jesus ever so hard. We have to dig deep through all the baggage of religion and the congested traffic of commercialism that is the media every day. Life with Jesus calls me to simplicity in life, meaning leaving off from comforts I WILL take for granted. Each must follow their own calling though. Kudos to you for following yours.


  5. Great idea. I wasn’t planning on giving up anything for Lent, as I’m prengant and already giving up a lot, but giving up on anger sounds like a great idea to me. My mood swings have been scaring my boys something terrible.


  6. Amazing! I’m struggling with Lent this year and failing miserably because my nerves are on edge. Maybe I’ll try anger next year.


  7. You can definitely still have sweets, if the sugar is replaced with Stevia. That’s how I did it, when I went on a 60-day detox. Cleared up my allergies and skin:) Good luck to you!

    Best regards,


  8. I have also recently made the conscious decision to not be as angry, and four days in, my house is so much calmer (and the guilt has flown, too). It’s tough when one of your main emotions is anger – for you, and those around you! Well done for taking the first step!


  9. Hi, I just found your blog. I’m new to blogging but am hooked already. I’ve given up sugary treats, cakes, biscuits and chocolate. Basically all of the ‘fun foods’ as I like to call them. Nice to read someone else’s posts too.


  10. This was a great hit home blog. I never took Lent into the true meaning like you are doing and this is a great point and great idea for long term goal and change. I was told /or read years age
    ” those who anger you control you” I repeat it to myself all the time and it helps but to verbally say “I give up anger” is pretty powerful


  11. This is beautiful. As a child I would give up soda or candy — but as an adult, I find that Lent seems more like a 40 day diet plan. This year, I want to practice a new discipline. Study, perhaps, or meditation. Thank you for sharing this post. I really enjoyed it.


  12. I’m giving up comparison jealousy. it’s so , so easy to become jealous when comparing ourselves, our lives, to others. but bottom line is you never know their whole story and you should never want to be anyone but yourself. easier said than done.


  13. I really like your post! I actually had a similar idea, to give up negative thinking for Lent, and I also started a 40 day Bible reading plan as well that’s definitely helping with the managing of my thoughts as well. Anger management specifically though is a challenging but great thing to try and do in the spirit of getting closer to God. Good luck with it!


  14. I love this. I’ve never understood the idea of giving up “things.” This year I’ve dedicated myself to reading one chapter of the Purpose-Driven Life every day of the Lenten season. To me, this is more of a dedication than, as you say, giving up sugar. Well done.


  15. Pingback: Wake Me Up | Graciebird

  16. Great post and I completely relate to this – I find it mostly ridiculous the way non-religious or non-practising individuals have adopted this season as one of sacrifice but only for the short-term. It seems that people are forgetting the real meaning of Lent and instead are using it as an excuse to make them feel better about themselves, but again, only for the short-term. I wrote a post on it here and would love to know your thoughts – http://absolutelylucy.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/why-im-not-giving-up-anything-for-lent/


  17. I like this. I always wondered why people gave up sugar. My family never really did the whole “giving something up” thing, so my memories of Lent always involved my friends complaining that they couldn’t eat sweets or use Facebook. I think that it should be something that helps you grow closer to God- how can not consuming sugary treats for 40 days do that? Maybe I’m off on that thought, I could very well be. This year I am “giving up” YouTube, Netflix, and other distractions when I am in my room for the evening, and spending the time with God instead


  18. This is fabulous! I tried this last year (with my 3 year old and 8 month old–they are now 4 and 20 months, and my patience is somehow resuming). I agree that as a mom it is such a challenge to stay calm and cool in the face of such never ending challenge. I recently read that motherhood is a vocation, not just a job. I tend to agree. When I feel the frustration and anger well up, I try saying a Hail Mary (she was a mom, after all). Even if it doesn’t ALWAYS dispel the anger and replace it with calm, it at least reminds me of my goal, and redirects my focus. When REALLY fuming, I say it out loud, which actually has been known to stop my 4 year old from screaming/fussing/whining and instead say, “Why are you saying that, mom?” It opens a more peaceful discussion. I wish you well, and may peace be with you 🙂


  19. Funny thing – I gave up sugar some time ago and found that I had given up anger as well without knowing it :). Every Lent now I give up smoking and although I stopped smoking over 20 years ago, it still feels good to give it every year. I’m sure the Man upstairs understands


  20. Reblogged this on Mountains of Hats and commented:
    I’ve decided to give up biting my nails – it’s a habit I hate about myself and giving it up while praising Jesus is great. I’ve decided to pick up running again. It’s a way to care for the temple God gave me. I am a better mom, a better person when I give myself time for praise each time my feet hit the pavement. I’ve decided to go to church more than once a week. God calls us each to his table, all he wants is our time, all he gives us is everything.


  21. This is a great blog post! I re-blogged it when I initially saw and I just shared it on all of my other social media accounts. Did I say this is a great post? 🙂 I am praying for your strength during this challenge as well! I’m hoping you’ll bless us with a followup post!!! Have a great day!!!


  22. I love this. In contrast, I am giving up desserts (not sugar, but dedicated sweets), but its actually for the reasons you list here – I want to appreciate food as a way to appreciate the goodness of nature, and to treat my body as something worthy of time and care. When I go for a dessert, it’s often for an emotional reason, and I usually just end up feeding a negative mental feeling with a negative physical one. I’m focusing instead on making delicious meals, and rewarding myself with food that takes care, not on the denial of something wanted. For me, it’s about making room for better rewards, not restricting myself!


Join the conversation. What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s