During the 40 days of Lent, many people sacrifice by giving up wine or chocolate or meat on Fridays.

Lent is a period of abstinence to prepare for Easter, a time to reflect on solemn events such as the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert before he began his public ministry and the 40 days Moses spent on Mt. Sinai with God.

For me giving up meat for Lent would be meaningless. I stopped eating red meat and chicken 30 years ago. Not for any high-minded reasons. At the time, I decided to abstain from animal flesh to lose weight. Staying thin is what we cared about in those days; eating healthy was secondary. It was a time of crash diets and knee-pounding aerobic exercises courtesy of actress Jane Fonda.

Today my meal choices are driven by something more salutary — a desire to become stronger rather than striving to look like a pencil. And my vegetarianism, which started for narcissistic reasons, has become a habit, although it has taken a weird turn. Now I allow myself to eat bacon, sausages on pizza and pipikaula (Hawaiian spiced meat).

I justify such heavily processed meat products by claiming they are not really meat. I say to myself. “Sausages and bacon used to be meat,” just like my friend the late Hugh Mulligan always called margarine “used to be butter.”

What would life be without bacon?

For Lent this year, I have given up alcohol and desserts, which unintentionally has turned out to be less of a sacrifice than a boon. Since alcohol and desserts are primarily sugar, I have already lost three pounds.

This brings me to my central point. It is often easy and fun to give up a food or drink for Lent these days because our abundant lives offer us so many enjoyable substitutes, Maybe instead of giving up, we should be taking on something such as a promise to help a charity or a quest to change ourselves for the better.

And you don’t have to be religious to make such a contract. Almost every society has a solemn time for its people to regroup and rededicate their lives.

Rep. Faye Hanohano could make a Lenten vow to seize responsibility for her actions instead of blaming everyone else.

Hanohano accused House leaders of “throwing her under the bus” after they reprimanded her for her rude behavior toward a Hawaii Pacific University student and for her allegedly abusive and racially discriminatory actions against employees of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

An unrepentant Hanohano slammed her critics, saying they either “misunderstood the Hawaiian language or are too shallow to get her message,” according to a March 11 story in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

For her Lenten pledge, Hanohano could vow to treat everyone equally even if they are a mainland haole or don’t speak Hawaiian. And if she occasionally fails to be courteous to people who testify at her hearings or visit her office, she could make a formal promise to acknowledge her meanness and apologize. All of us make mistakes.

Public Utilities Commission Chairwoman Mina Morita’s Lenten vow could be to take more care when it comes to what goes on in her own business ventures. This would seem to be elementary because Morita heads one of the state’s most powerful regulatory agencies.

Yet, on March 28, Morita and her husband Lance Laney will appear before the Board of Land and Natural Resources to face allegations they illegally constructed a carport and two other structures on Hanalei Valley conservation land. The Garden Island newspaper reports that DLNR says Laney and Morita used the two cottages to set up an unauthorized bed and breakfast business, which they had been running for more than a decade.

It has to be mortifying for Morita, the chief rules and regulations enforcer of all public utilities in the state, to be accused of looking the other way when it comes to rules governing her own backyard.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie could make a Lenten promise to be nicer to his staff to keep so many of them from quitting. For a politician, it looks bad if your constituents start to see your office as a revolving door. You have to wonder if the governor isn’t firing people because they disagree with him or if the employees are leaving because they think he is an inept manager.

At least 15 senior policy people have left by choice or been asked to leave since Abercrombie took office. And it looks like Morita might join the list following reports the governor is disinclined to reappoint her to second term.

As for me when it comes to the 33 days remaining until Easter, I will continue to give up wine and gin and tonics and Rocky Road ice cream and all other delicious desserts.

But following my own suggestion, I will also make a Lenten promise to try to become a better person. All of us have our demons. My demon is paying heed to critical voices, which come most often in the middle of the night, telling me I will fail, that I don’t deserve success, that I am weak-minded. The hangover result is worry and procrastination.

As my Lenten vow, I promise to scoff at the damning voices, to push a path through fear, and on the way, to say a kind word to each person I meet.

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