Is it a Sin to Cheat on My Lenten Resolution?

We are halfway through Lent, and by now you’re probably missing that thing you gave up as your Lenten sacrifice. It’s tempting to ‘cheat’ and have that piece of chocolate, or take a little peek at social media even though you gave them up. But would that be sinful?

Or maybe you have the opposite problem. You find yourself in a position where it seems like the right thing to do is to partake in something, even though you gave it up for Lent. Would it be a sin to do so?

Recently on Go Ask Your Father™, guest host Fr. John Paul Erickson, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis, responded to a listener who emailed a question about Lenten cheating. He said that he gave up cake for Lent, but he had some friends from out of town visiting and wondered if it would be a sin to have cake to welcome them. Fr. Erickson responded:

“Remember that the heart of the law is love. Love is the measure of all things. Now, it is not human love but divine love, and that will be the subject of Judgement Day. Did you love? Did you love as God loved you?

And so when we’re dealing with Lenten disciplines, how should we should interpret the particular circumstances? Let’s say that you go to someone’s house and it’s a Friday. It’s a non-Catholic’s house, and they’ve prepared a wonderful meal for you – which is a big, delicious steak. What are you bound to do?

It seems to me that in a case like that, out of love, out of generosity, you say to the person, ‘Look at this! This is wonderful!’ And you enjoy it. And you find something else on that day to do instead.

So with the example of the cake, the hospitality that you want to show the visitors seems to me to be a perfectly good reason to be a little bit lenient on yourself on that day. I think it would be prudent to find something else to offset that leniency, but certainly the law of hospitality, the law of charity must prevail.

But be careful, because we are very eager to find ourselves excuses to give up this or that. And we need to be easy on others and hard on ourselves. I don’t give that advice to anyone struggling with scrupulosity, but for most of the rest of us I think it is a good standard to live by. Be hard on yourself, be easy on others.

And so, when you have friends coming over, to show care and concern by offering them some sweets, that seems perfectly reasonable and definitely not sinful.”

Listen to the full response below:

Go Ask Your Father airs weekdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern/10:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.