With the Lenten season upon us, it’s about time we talk about sacrifices. So how do frogs play into this? Hear me out.
As the coordinator for Academic Coaching and Research Services at Bridgewater State University, I supervise academic coaches who work one-on-one with undergraduate students to address issues in time management, discuss study strategies, develop specific and measurable goals for their semester, and other non-content specific matters that they encounter as they transition throughout college. As I’ve been learning and growing throughout this experience, I’m constantly trying to find ways to engage students, to really connect with them and bring them into the conversation that is coaching.
One way I’ve been attempting to do this is by making our coaching space more appealing and inviting. Enter the whiteboard. On the wall in our space is a giant whiteboard. Since last year, the same words had been written on it. There was no visual to grab your attention, just a brief list of words. This, I thought, was a good place for me to start. So for the past few weeks the coaches have watched as my apparently anal-retentive self spends entirely too long drawing out visual aids for coaching concepts.
However, despite the meticulous nature of my artistic abilities (imagine drawing nearly perfect lines and then erasing them because they just weren’t straight enough), within the past few weeks actual pictures have emerged.
All that being said, last week’s drawing accompanied an explanation of the concept, “Eat the Frog.” This concept began with a quote from Mark Twain, when he said, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.” This quote was expanded out into a whole approach on task prioritization by Brian Tracy, who wrote the book, “Eat That Frog.” The book explores the idea that “frogs” are the things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
What else does that sound like? Well, in the context of Lent, we look at sacrifice in particular (though we shouldn’t forget that almsgiving is also emphasized at this time of the Liturgical year) as giving something up that would be particularly difficult or challenging in an effort to repent and, as the “Catechism” says, unite ourselves to the mystery of Jesus in the desert (CCC 540).
In a way, we’re eating the frog and doing the thing we most don’t want to, so that everything else can take on new meaning. During Lent, at the end of our 40 days, we’ve practiced Spiritual discipline, we’ve mastered (hopefully) the desire to succumb to temptations to cheat on the promises we made at the beginning of Lent in the name of sacrifice, and we’ve hopefully eaten the frog every day. In his book, Tracy also says that the longer we look at a frog, the more difficult it becomes to eat (so we should eat it fast and get it over with).
For me, when I try to relate that to Lent, it reminds me that there is always something I know I should be doing — or not doing — yet the more I actively don’t do it — or do the thing I should be doing less of — the harder it is to change that behavior. It’s those things, those habits I’ve formed that I need to get away from, that I try to convince myself aren’t that bad when Lent comes around.
By that very confession, it’s those things that are my frogs, the things my gut tells me I should no longer procrastinate addressing. And it’s those things that I should eat right away when it comes to Lent 2017. So what’s your frog? What is the thing you know you need to address, to sacrifice, to do more of even though you don’t want to? Are you ready to eat it?
Anchor columnist Renee Bernier is the coordinator for Academic Coaching at Bridgewater State University. She still works with youth and young adult ministry, particularly helping to prepare high school students for their college experience. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.