Lenten Promise: Why I Gave Up Wal-Mart for Lent

“What did you give up for Lent?”  I have been asked this question several times over the last few weeks.  My Lenten promise has shocked and/or confused each person who has asked:  I will not walk into a Wal-Mart for 40 days and 40 nights.  Yes, I gave up Wal-Mart for Lent.

Before you start judging my choice as lame or me as too weak-willed to give up something you agree to be a difficult sacrifice, let me explain why I made this choice and the difficulties this sacrifice entails.  And, Judgy McJudgerson, Jesus gave a direct order to all of us to not judge each other.  Don’t believe me?  Google “Thou shalt not judge,” and see what comes up.  (Apparently, I did not give up heavy-handed sarcasm for Lent.  Maybe next year.)

First things first, giving up Wal-Mart is in fact a sacrifice for me and, at the very least, a huge inconvenience.

I live in a very small town and Wal-Mart is the only shopping game in town.  To my great sadness, we do not have a Target.  We do not have a Costco.  Sam’s and any other big box store you can think of do not exist in my tiny, shopping-deprived town.  The mall is half-vacant and depressing with its dull lighting and odd smelling carpet.  We have grocery stores, hardware stores, and drug stores.  But if you want it all in one place, as this lazy shopaholic does, Wal-Mart is your only option.

Secondly, I decided to give up Wal-Mart for 40 days and 40 nights to really try to become a better, healthier, happier person.

My innate laziness and compulsive shopping habit drives me to Wal-Mart in search of one-stop shopping, groceries and the latest product to preserve my skin for eternity in one place.  I’m just too lazy to go to three different stores to complete my shopping list or drive 45 minutes to the nearest decent shopping plaza.  And if you do not believe I have a shopping addiction, I encourage you to read Pretty Girl in the Room.  I didn’t create a beauty product storage problem over night.  This took years of dedication to my nasty little habit until I finally woke up one day to the physical display of countless bad choices, buckets of money down the drain, and mountains of guilt and disappointment that I gave in so frequently to my personal devil.  At first, I was relieved to live in a town without Sephora, Ulta or a decent mall.  I hoped that my shopping addiction would be cured.  No such luck.  I just lowered my standards.  Oh sure, I would tell myself that I would just browse the skin care and cosmetics aisles before heading to the grocery side, but once under those fluorescent lights surrounded by “Rollbacks”, the devil would come out to play.   By the time I was swiping my card at the checkout, my cart would be filled with impulse buys of exactly what I didn’t need in every color imaginable.  Rather than wait for a much needed intervention, I took action:  no more Wal-Mart.

My Lenten promise is making me a better, healthier, happier person, at least in some ways:

  1. Impulse purchasing is difficult if you are only motivated to do what is convenient.  Without a one-stop shop, I now seriously evaluate what I need and what I merely want.  My dislike for driving outweighs my shopping addiction.
  2. I want to streamline and simplify.  I now have the need to not only stop increasing the excesses in my life, but to get rid of my current excesses.
  3. I’m pretty sure my blood pressure is lower, and I am having fewer impure thoughts.  I don’t know this for sure, but it has to be true.  Even though Wal-Mart is convenient, I don’t think I have ever completed a trip to Wal-Mart without the desire to punch someone in the neck.   I’m actually pretty proud of myself that I have never acted on this impulse, but in the Catholic Church, even the negative thoughts are sinful.  And considering the lack of proper undergarments, the overabundance of pajama bottoms and house shoes, the screaming children, the screaming adults, the obstacle course of carts and stock strewn about as if the Tasmanian Devil himself just whirled down the aisles, and the often rude beyond belief staff, I have had plenty of reason to punch someone.  My anxiety is rising just thinking about it all.  And now I need to go to confession again for all these hateful thoughts.
  4. I have realized a key factor in removing garbage from my life:  I must stop walking willfully into the garbage.  What is the definition of insanity?  Doing the same action over and over again and expecting a different resolution.  I do not have the power to convince the world to stop thinking Wal-Mart is the perfect place to display that low back tattoo, way too much of newly acquired cleavage, or the fun side of your personality by wearing Sponge Bob Square Pants pajama bottoms in public with your four kids in tow.  So, I will put a stop to this particular insanity by refusing to go into a Wal-Mart for another 3 weeks.  I will not even take a Sunday reprieve.  Maybe I will continue my Lenten promise indefinitely.
  5. Hopefully, this will also make me think a little more kindly about my fellow human beings.  Let’s face it; even a short trip through Wal-Mart makes me dislike the general public.  That grown-ass woman in the Sponge Bob Square Pants pajama bottoms might otherwise be a lovely person with so much on her plate taking care of four children that she doesn’t even have the time to put on actual pants before leaving her house.  It’s possible, right?

So, maybe giving up Wal-Mart has not been as painful as the Lent I gave up all fried foods.  (My husband made me promise that I would never do that again.  I guess he got tired of listening to me whine for a French fry.)  But giving up Wal-Mart has made me seriously consider my compulsive shopping.  I have been forced to evaluate needs versus wants.  And I no longer tempt myself with the urge to punch people.  Shouldn’t Lenten promises not only promote sacrifice but also self-discovery and growth?  I don’t think Jesus went to the desert just to see how much life could suck.  And in writing this post, I now realize that, along with compulsive behavior and thoughts of rage, I also need to work on my inner judge:

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  Matthew 7:5

(Just in case you are wondering, after 12 years of Catholic School and a lifetime of Sunday masses, I had to Google that quote to get it right.  I need to end this post before all this self-evaluation makes me bang my head against a wall.)

Please share with me your Lenten promise below.  How has this sacrifice changed you?  Has it been more or less challenging than you thought it would be?  Are you white-knuckling it to Easter Sunday, dying to partake of whatever you gave up?


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