Deny Yourself

                                               By Geriann Wentworth



Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”        Matt. 16: 24, 25

Another Lenten Season is quickly upon us and I wonder, “What will I give up? What will I sacrifice?” I don’t like denying myself. I do a terrible job sacrificing and it depresses me when I fail to keep my Lenten resolutions especially when I compare myself to others. I do better trying to add something good to my spiritual life during Lent rather than giving something up.  However, I just can’t shake the nagging feeling that I am missing something very good if I avoid self-denial. Matthew 16:25 says that whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Can I trust that if I choose to lose a little of myself I will gain more of God?

          Today after Mass, Fr. Joe Clark read “Lenten Resolutions” by Caryll Houselander. The first line grabbed my attention: “A mass of good resolutions, I think, are apt to end up in disappointment and to make one depressed.”(1)  (Ah ha!—someone who understands my feelings about Lent.)  The only resolution that she ever found to work is “Whenever I want to think of myself, I will think of God.”(2)  When Houselander was feeling lonely or misunderstood, she would think about the loneliness of Christ at his trial; even the misunderstanding of his closest friends. If she were feeling like she made a fool of herself, she would think how Christ felt while mocked during his Passion. If she felt like she could not go on without help, she thought of Jesus needing help carrying his cross. Sometimes other examples would come to her as pictures that flashed through her mind.       This practice became a habit for her and she said this habit saved her from despair. She found that too much concentration on the self could be so depressing.

          When I concentrate on myself too much, I get anxious, depressed and disconnected from God’s love. Sometimes this leads to a feeling of hopelessness. Caryll Houselander’s Lenten resolution might help me get my thoughts off myself. It would be challenging to do it consistently, but worth the effort, especially if I could learn to do this at those times when I am more vulnerable to negative thinking.

          Caryll concludes with an important point for us all to consider as we choose our own Lenten resolutions, which is that different people have different approaches to Christ. “He has become all things—infant, child, man—so that we all can approach him in the way easiest for us. The best is to use that way to our heart’s content, and not to trouble about any other.”(3)

          The key then is to be ourselves before God. He is the one who made us all different. Comparing ourselves with others will either discourage us or make us prideful. Maybe Caryll’s way will be good for me to try since I am struggling in a way similar to her.  Possibly God has another way that is just right for my personality and my state in life. We need to make sure we are taking the time to pray and seek God’s will for us during these forty days of Lent. If we are open and honest with God, He will show each one of us the way that is best for us to follow and save us from guilt and condemnation. Out of His great love for us, He will give us the grace to learn what He wants us to learn and to change what He wants us to change. Let us not underestimate the creativity of God at work in each one of us!

Blessings during your Lenten journey!


(Notes 1-3) Caryll Houselander, “Lenten Resolutions.” Excerpt from The Letters of Caryll Houselander: Her Spiritual Leagacy (Sheed and Ward, New York, 1965)





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