Lent creep

“Lent creep” is the phenomenon of gradually increasing what you’re doing for Lent because you feel guilty doing something that’s close to, but not quite, what you offered to give up for Lent. Or because you think you could be doing something a little bit more/better than what you offered to do extra for Lent.

“Lent creep” is the scourge of my Lents. I mentioned giving up bagels for breakfast one Lent. That easily morphed into giving up bagels at other times too (understandable) and from there into giving up other bread-type breakfast products (a stretch, but okay) and from there into giving up bread-type products for snacks in the middle of the day (we’re getting nuts here) and finally into feeling guilty if I had Italian bread with dinner (but here I drew the line.)

It’s a trap, clearly. My Patient Husband experiences the same thing. And we both recognize that the purpose of Lent is to focus our attention on Good Friday, not to fill out the proper check boxes or jump through the right hoops. “I said I’d do two chapters of spiritual reading every day, but these were short chapters, so do I have to do a third?” God isn’t getting overwrought about that kind of stuff. It’s whether your heart is in it, whether you’re doing the right number of minutes of reading. Not a question of how many carbs are in that snack. Not a test of how much you can withstand.

I get that. And yet, it still happens. Every year, we face Lent Creep.

For the last few years, our family gave up dessert after dinner on Friday during Lent. By halfway through Lent, my Patient Husband felt awkward about eating anything sweet on Friday, and so did I. Eventually it got easier just not to eat the cookie than to feel uncomfortable after eating it. And so the hang-up continues. If Lent went on much longer than six weeks, we’d begin feeling bad about Thursday dessert too, or sugar in coffee on Friday (oops, I did feel bad about that last year and stopped doing that…)

It’s funny. It’s a stupid human trick. And it’s something I really haven’t been able to get away from. My Patient Husband has taken to writing down his Lenten resolutions so he can keep coming back to them and not creeping them, but for me, I need to start as specific as possible.

Maybe this year, I need to ask God to help me laugh at myself, because otherwise, who knows where this is going to end?

Edited at a later date to add: Welcome to everyone dropping by from “Happy Catholic”! Thanks for coming, and I hope you enjoy your stay at the Philangelus residence. 🙂


  1. veronica

    That’s funny. I gave up coffee. Not caffeine- so I started drinking tea. But than felt incredibly guilty over doctoring up my tea to make it more enjoyable. And so the doctoring stopped. Straight up tea. Lenten creep has got a hold on me. Thanks for the chance to examine my little sacrifice, and laugh.

  2. Maureen

    This makes me feel a lot better.

  3. peony

    i never really thought of this phenomenon, but now that you put a name to it, and i think about it, I got it!!!

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