“Oh, no! Look at the RAIN!” Evan and Tessa, two of my 8th grade girls, wanted to go running but decided to wait out the downpour. When the rain let up fifteen minutes later, they waved as they jogged past me in the parking lot. They’ve been running after school every day since Ash Wednesday, as part of their preparations during the season of Lent. They’ve also both given up desserts.
With no encouragement from me, some of my students decided to practice both self-discipline and self-control for Lent. Giving up something for Lent is a fairly common practice, but the idea of adding something is relatively new to me.
I took a quick survey, and my students are giving up Facebook, Twitter, tomatoes, soda, sweets, salty foods, and sugar. I had to laugh at Ashtyn and Amber, who are best friends. One gave up Facebook; the other gave up Twitter. They still text each other, but they were laughing as they shared how the other night they had actually talked on the phone!
When I asked what kinds of activities students had added (or pledged to do more often), the answers were working out, walking the dog, stretching and pushups, spending more time with the family, helping Dad more in Sunday School, and being active for at least an hour every day. I was so inspired, I decided to spend 30 minutes on my treadmill every night – a goal I’ve only managed to hit about 50 percent of the time thus far. (I also gave up Starbucks, which meant the other day I had to give away an Americano brought to school for me by a thoughtful student.)
We’ve had discussions in class about the difference between self-DISCIPLINE and self-CONTROL, and we came up with this: self-discipline is when you make yourself do something you don’t want to do, while self-control is when you stop yourself from doing something you shouldn’t (or don’t want to) do.
I share this not to show you how holy my students are (they’re not, though sometimes they can be holy terrors), but to show how thoughtful and committed teens can be when the motivation comes from inside themselves. Often adults don’t give them enough credit for being able to stick with a plan, especially when it becomes difficult. I’ve been praising my students for their maturity and encouraging them to begin again when they slip up, and I can see how the whole experience is building character.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t counting down the days until Easter. . .