The season of Lent is a wonderful time of spiritual reflection for most Christians around the world. It lasts for 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, when we commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion.

Lent is a time of abstention and special discipline, inspired by biblical events such as the 40 days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah, and the 40-day fast of Lord Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism.

One of the popular traditions for Lent is to give up something that we really like, such as chocolate, or meat on Fridays. Of much greater importance is the invitation to put into practice Jesus’ Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5-8), which has been the inspiration for so many significant persons, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

I’m not planning on giving up chocolate. Instead, I’m planning on giving up a few vices that are much deadlier than a chocolate bar, such as self-centeredness, impatience and anger.

This Lent, I’m going to abstain from being an old grouch and go introduce myself to my neighbors. I might even bring them a Latino pastry from one of our many Hispanic hotspots in the Lowcountry!

This Lent, I’m going to tone down my New York City pace and learn to walk a little slower so I can look at people and offer them a smile in the Name of Jesus. I plan to take time to have conversations with the elderly – and to show them that I care. Their wisdom is invaluable, precious and encouraging.

This Lent, I’m going to stop and thank a police officer, a firefighter and a veteran for their willingness to always put their lives at risk for the sake of others.

This Lent, I am planning on not taking things so personally and to make an effort to pray more for others, than what I pray for myself. It’s very hard to hate someone you’re praying for!

This Lent, I’m going to share extra hugs and laughs, thanking God for life and for each unique person he created in his image.

I’m going to meditate on the cross of Christ, and what it means to sacrifice one’s life for the benefit of others, including those who hate us. This Lenten season I plan to strive towards becoming a better man, fostering peace, concord and forgiveness.

Now that I think of it, perhaps I should also give up chocolate. So tell me, what are you giving up for Lent?

Juan Rivera is the Missions Ambassador for Church of The Cross in Bluffton.