A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when I was writing for another paper, I did a column on Lent.
You know Lent, right? The 40-day period starting on Ash Wednesday that many Christians use to reflect and prepare for Easter. Also, they forgo or give up something (like sugar) in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.
Anyway, in this particular column I lamented the fact that my tribe doesn’t observe Lent for reasons about which I’m not entirely clear. And please do not tell me it’s because Mormons (yes, I still call us Mormons — don’t judge) aren’t Christians. That just won’t fly with me. Dude, if you think Jesus was the Son of God, then you can feel free to call yourself a Christian, as far as I’m concerned.
I went on in this particular column to say that I would observe Lent in my heart anyway and that instead of giving up sugar, I would give up fear. (The column, incidentally, struck a chord with a reader in Michigan who now emails me every Fat Tuesday to inform me what he’s giving up for the approaching Lenten season. This year, he said he would “avoid using foreign governments to dig up dirt” on his political enemies.)
So, what does this have to do with the upcoming April General Conference?
Let’s just say I have this recurring fantasy that one day an announcement will come over the pulpit that, yes, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with many of their Christian brothers and sisters around the world, will now observe Lent!
I mean, it could happen, right? There’ve been a lot of changes since President Russell M. Nelson became our leader, so why not? And I know exactly what I’d try to give up the next time Lent rolls around — the tendency to think that, whatever I do, the gifts I give just aren’t good enough. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
Not long ago, I attended the funeral of a remarkable woman who was truly larger than life. She was well-read, well-traveled, well-mannered and well-loved by everyone — particularly by her grandchildren, who all shared stories about how their nana often picked them up from school and treated them to eclairs in a little pink box from Mrs. Backer’s bakery in Salt Lake City. And all I could think, when I heard these lovely stories, were these three things:
1. I have never given my grandchildren eclairs in little pink boxes from Mrs. Backer’s.
2. The only time I ever picked up my oldest granddaughter from school, she acted like I was kidnapping her.
3. I’m a failure as a grandmother.
OK, intellectually I knew that I was being ridiculous. After all, I’m old enough and experienced enough to know that there are all kinds of grandmothers and who’s to say one type is better than another and so on and so forth and yadda, yadda, yadda. But there I sat on the pew bench anyway, suddenly feeling all those familiar feelings of inadequacy.
I know I’m not alone when it comes to feeling like I don’t measure up sometimes . . . like what I have to offer isn’t quite enough. I’m pretty sure a lot of women feel the same way, especially in a subculture like ours, which emphasizes the importance of achievement and excellence.
Not that achievement and excellence are bad things.
Too often we use them as yardsticks with which to rap our own knuckles until they’re good and bloody.
So, yes, if I were observing Lent right now, I would try my best to give up the persistent impulse to treat myself less kindly than I treat other people.
Or maybe — just maybe — I could try to give it up anyway, Lent or no Lent.
Ann Cannon is The Salt Lake Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at email@example.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.