Lent, Yom Kippur and Ramadan (LYR) share a common ritualistic component despite the obvious theological differences. Achievement of a spiritual goal is reached through self-denial. Humans possess a trait that animals don’t; we can delay immediate pleasure for other non-tangible gain.
LYR occur for brief periods of time and end with the resumption of normal life. We give up something pleasurable for a period of time or fast entirely for a single day and feel better because of that action. The difficulty of the LYR self-denial period is eased and shared making it palatable as a communal effort.
We can drill down these actions to our daily lives, stripped of religious significance. We can go on diet to loose weight for health or image reasons. We can exercise for the same purposes. We can pass up making a purchase today waiting for the sale or the next model, or trying to decide if we really need the coveted item. We give up something today for an intangible tomorrow. Lots of “we’s” in that paragraph but meant in the singular “I”.
Some of these tasks are easy and others are more difficult. Part of the problem comes from the personal nature compared to the communal structure of LYR. Sometimes we don’t see the value in our efforts; whereas, in the LYR model there is our God view of the world and the perceived consequences of failure, or at least not trying. Or peer pressure to conform to specific behavior expectations.
I contend that if we value our lives and actions then we must internalize the importance of our actions for our own benefit and not contingent on external spiritual reward. Inner spiritual awareness is the motivation to remaining on the diet, continuing to exercise or act with financial self-control. The voice in our head is us, not some higher power.
Of course I hear a voice calling me to go to the freezer for a piece of my wife’s delicious chocolate cake. Some days I hear the call; on other days I remember that my wife is saving the cake for company and her voice is the one that matters most.