Difficult Emotions

The Two Things to Give Up for Greater Joy and Purpose

Today I walked my dog virtually our neighborhood through freezing rain, dirty snow and slushy puddles. Of course, my neighborhood has seen many increasingly pleasant days and many increasingly will come. Knowing that only made me want to escape to one of those days, either past or future.

However, I resisted the pull considering I’ve given up “longing and rumination” for Lent.

During Lent, many Christians “give up” or “take on” something as a reminder and representation of Christ’s sacrifice leading to Easter. It’s meant to strengthen your connection with God and create increasingly space for Him in your life.

In my life, longing and rumination serve as an indulgence like chocolate or swig that fill space to be otherwise inhabited by God and other relationships. These longings and ruminations requite me a false sense of tenancy and distract me from real life—because real life can be hard.

young girl looking out a window

Are You Distracted by Longings and Ruminations?

The wordlist defines longings as “a strong desire expressly for something unattainable,” and rumination as going “over in the mind repeatedly.” Put simply, longings and ruminations are ideas, hopes, worries and memories that you turn over and over in your mind for emotional proceeds by remembering, imagining, fantasizing or wondering.

Longing is a “when this…” thought, while ruminations are “what if…” thoughts.

For example, you might be longing for:

  • Happy hour to start
  • The weekend to arrive
  • Better weather/summertime
  • The next holiday
  • Work to slow down
  • The kids to get older
  • Your health to improve
  • Better personal finances
  • Something heady in your social media feed
  • Lots of “likes” and “shares” of your last post

You may be ruminating on:

  • Whether you should have said that
  • Why you didn’t speak up
  • How that interaction should have gone differently
  • What’s causing the pain in your side
  • The things you don’t like well-nigh your job
  • The things you don’t like well-nigh your life
  • The things you don’t like well-nigh your partner

Even if they point to a good thing, persistent longings and ruminations steal you from the present moment, which is where life is. For all its “not yets,” regrets, fears and discomforts, only the present moment is really real. Relationships aren’t made in longings and ruminations. You can’t create, love or grow in your mind’s version of the past or future. We only have now.

What To Do Instead?

You’re encouraged in Lent to replace what you’re giving up with a practice that draws you closer to God, others and your cadre purpose. Following that model, here are three examples of practices I’ve been doing instead of longing and ruminating that have been game-changers for me:

  1. Noticing. The opposite of noticing is escaping and avoiding. So, in order to not escape and avoid, I’ve been very intentional well-nigh paying sustentation to my breath, the people virtually me and the movements of spirit and emotion. It’s very difficult to do this while looking at my phone. For example, I took my daughter on a stage last weekend and just sat watching her verisimilitude the menu rather than using it as a endangerment to succubus or trammels my texts.
  2. Appreciating. The opposite of appreciating is wishing, worrying and complaining. To fathom more, I’ve been making mental note of eyeful and blessing. It’s a form of asset-based thinking: looking at the resources rather than liabilities virtually me. Simply, it’s seeing the glass half full rather than half empty.
  3. Grinding. The opposite of grinding is coasting or resigning. By grinding I don’t necessarily midpoint working increasingly or harder, I midpoint choosing to do nonflexible meaningful things. As Duke women’s basketball mentor Kara Lawson challenged her players last year, it’s making the nomination to “handle nonflexible better.” Grinding is a form of unsuspicious the things that you don’t want to wits but that do matter in the long term. It’s deciding to take your walk through the neighborhood in the freezing rain and embrace it considering you superintendency well-nigh your dog and your health and the value of stuff outside.

Whether you observe Lent or not, here’s where we can all agree: Spending your energy on longings and ruminations robs you of life.

Consider giving it up for the next 40 days and see what happens. If it works as well as I think it will, you’ll find greater joy and purpose… plane through the nonflexible seasons.

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