The Value of Asceticism

Matthew Lee Anderson writes about the benefits of ascetic practices such as fasting.

So much of our happiness depends upon having resources at hand, which is why abstaining from food or drink can initially make us seem surly and irritable. Sometimes people have told me that they gave up fasting because it was hard to be happy—when, dear reader, the difficulty is the point. As we temporarily renounce the goods of this world, we should expect our lives to get worse before they get better, as removing the resources we usually rely on to get through a day with good cheer exposes how few resources for joy we really have. Deprivation causes a crises, in other words, which means we have to look for new resources to overcome the obstacles of anger and irritation before us.

As Lent is approaching, I find myself thinking more and more about the rigors that will become part of the observance of the season. I can say that I’ve got a certain amount of trepidation as deprivation comes near and obligations to worship and presence increase. The grace of God is good, though.


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