Not Giving Up For Lent

For Lent, I’ve usually given up some small pleasure. But I’m not giving up anything this Lent.

Not giving up kindness. No. The world needs it now more than ever.

Not giving up coffee. I did that once and went the whole 40 days and nights with a headache.

Not giving up gossip. When I did that one year, I missed too many juicy conversations by the water cooler. I want to bond with my colleagues, not feel smug and act superior.

Not giving up TV. As a kid, I had to forego my favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz, which only showed once a year. See, kids, we didn’t have Netflix or streaming services back then. If you wanted to watch a show, you had to wait until it was on.

Not giving up social media. When I started to give that up one year, I missed a party invitation. Not this year.

Not giving up meat or alcohol.

I’m not giving up so many good things in life. Not giving up friendship, letter writing, and social justice.

I’m not giving up my writing and/or blogging habit either. I’ve tried, but I don’t seem to know what I feel if I can’t write my thoughts down.

What about you? Giving up your Jeopardy habit? Candy? Complaining? Good for you. I’m supporting you from the sidelines as I pop bon bons from the couch in front of the TV.

I think this photo was by my friend Charles Chessler after our Central Park birding excursion several years ago.

I realize that I wrote a similar Not Giving Up for Lent message several years ago.

Letting Go of Gossip

This Lent, I gave up gossip. This has been tough. I miss the way gossip clarifies your values. It’s like when you watch Nanny 911 and you feel so good and smug about your own parenting skills. You think to yourself, “I would never do THAT!” (But let’s admit, we’ve all done much worse. We just, thankfully, did not have a camera crew following us and recording our parenting failures! Not too worry, those incidents will be remembered by our children who will blame us for years to come.)

In the fall, I met a church executive who told me she left church work for a while to sell Mary Kay cosmetics when her husband was in the military. She said in the Mary Kay biz, you were not allowed to gossip or criticize one another. (I don’t know how they enforce this). But she said it was a good and productive way to work and that she wished she could do this again now that she’s returned to church work.

I know there are positive sides to gossip — studies show it can bind community members together and other studies show that gossip lowers your heart rate. Whatever. From my own experience, gossip undermines creativity and productivity and inhibits trust in coworkers.

At work, I’ve felt stuck when a colleague wants to gossip about another colleague. I have no way to extricate myself.

Here I am at the work Christmas party. I hope I wasn't gossiping. (photo by J. Barnes)Should I?

1. Say nothing, which makes the gossiper think I agree so they keep on gossiping.

2. Say, “I hear you. But I gave up gossip for Lent, so, much as I’d like to join this gossip gravy train right now, I can’t.” No, this makes me feel all holier-than-thou.

3. Don’t talk to anyone. Umm, that’s not happening.

Without gossip, I’m losing an opportunity to bond.

On my Twitter feed the other day, another woman church executive wrote a tweet, something like, “We remember best the people who supported us most.” I want to be that person — the one remembered for being supportive, creative, and productive, not negative or gossipy.

I do want my heart rate lowered and I do want to bond with my colleagues. So after Easter, I may have to dive back in the gossip pool. Or I may not. There’s a lot to talk about besides each other. And there’s a lot to admire in one another. I’m a big fan of admiring my colleagues. And I want to keep admiring people more (not less).

But as one other coworker told me, “I never gossip. But you want to know who does???” (ba dum bum!)