A time to reflect

Yesterday, you may have seen people walking around with black smudges on their foreheads. That’s because it was Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent observed by many Christian churches.

Lent spans 40 days leading up to Easter. A certain degree of fasting is expected, and many Christians also choose to give up something they like. It is meant to be a time of humility, self-examination, quietly re-connecting with God and reconciling with our fellow humans. The idea is to honestly scrutinize oneself, to do without some of life’s pleasures and to come out of it a better person.

Jews have the High Holy Days, and Muslims have Ramadan — both times of fasting and atonement for sins. It’s a universal human need: some time to reflect, deny oneself comforts, face up to one’s flaws and try to mend them.

As we do this, we correct the pride that compels us to criticize other people while ignoring our own faults. We come to feel more compassion for others, more solidarity with those who suffer more than we do. Ideally, grudges, grievances, irritations and fears melt away, and people learn to live with each other — even love each other.

It’s kind of like a medical procedure. The surgeries, drug side effects and treatments may be unpleasant, but they clear out the obstructions that ail us, making way for our bodies to work properly again. And in the process, we learn about our inner workings.

Whether it is Lent or some other time, we challenge you to make some time for this kind of thing. Imagine if our national leaders could go 40 days without the hypocrisy of criticizing each other while ignoring their own flaws. Imagine a process by which Americans divided by party loyalties could grow toward a shared sense of community.

Our world sure could use something like that. Therefore, each of us has some work to do.

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