By Kimberly Edwards
“Never let your left hand know what your right is doing.” As I took a break from work to get ashes on the 1st this month, I was particularly intrigued by the universal nature of what my priest discussed.
While I’ve had a complex relationship with religion and spirituality over the years, I identify as Catholic. As a History major, yes, I understand that there are gaping holes in the Church system and its reputation with corruption and nepotism, among other crazy offenses…but that’s not why I’m here. I’m also not here to preach to you about religion, spirituality, or God. I just want to reiterate the particularly accurate point that my priest made in the express mass that I attended to start the Lenten season.
“Never let your left hand know what your right is doing.”
What does this even mean? Why do Christians “give up” things for Lent? What does it do for us as individuals?
I’m going to be as objective and universal as possible in referring to what the priest discussed during this mass. He broke down the lessons and meanings of Lent in ways that I honestly think should apply to all people, 365 days a year. His words encouraged self-growth, self-preservation, and selflessness. These are things that we as human beings should practice all the time, and shouldn’t confine to this one religious season.
So, what did he talk about, anyway? What did this quote mean?
First and foremost, I really don’t think that Lent is about “giving things up.” I don’t believe in things like, “I’m giving up chocolate because I like it too much” – it’s more about giving something up that will allow you to learn about living a more simplified lifestyle.
If that happens to be chocolate, so be it…but dig deeper. Think, “Okay, well I’m indulging in chocolate because the sugar gives me an emotional boost when I’m not feeling well,” or, “I reward myself with chocolate but don’t really have a reason to reward myself for anything.”
Rewards are rewards – this implies that you should be putting in work in some other aspect of life to truly appreciate them. But if you’re rewarding yourself for existing, is that rewarding or self-aggrandizement?
The second part of the discussion focused on being more charitable. Give of yourself what you wouldn’t normally, or didn’t think you normally could. We live in a time saturated by calls to action. We should each find a cause, or causes, with which we identify, and follow through on our promises. Whether it’s making a grown-up lemonade stand for charity or donating to Goodwill or The Salvation Army because you have too many clothes, understand that your gift helps the functionality of others’ lives, and that’s why you should do it. In times like these, humanity should come first. In my opinion, few things promote humanity better than service and philanthropy.
Finally, let’s look at the quote that I mentioned a few times earlier. “Never let your left hand know what your right is doing.” This is about sitting down and shutting up about every last charitable thing that you do. You should do it without a second thought. You don’t have to record and take pictures of everything that you do that help someone else. Don’t live for credit in your good deeds. Instead, just do them, give yourself a pat on the back, and keep it moving.
So, even for those who don’t have a faith or don’t identify with religion, I think Lentuation should be a lesson in humanity and self-reflection. Let’s let each other live the best lives that we possibly can, and take gratification as a means of knowing that we are empathetic, compassionate, and loving beings.
Until next time.
Photo Credit: Lee Chapman