Every other year or so, I give up my snooze button for Lent. Some years it goes well and some years I fail repeatedly. But every year, I abandon the good habit after Lent. That’s not how it’s supposed to be—whenever we cultivate good habits during Lent, it doesn’t make much sense to discard them once Easter comes. I don’t do it intentionally—I just tend to slip back into the bad habit after sleeping in on Easter Monday and slowly getting used to my snooze button once again.
There are many studies out there that show morning people tend to be more productive or that snooze buttons do more harm than good. But I didn’t give up my snooze button simply to be a morning person or to be more productive. It ended up having those side benefits, but they weren’t the reason behind the sacrifice. The driving force was the realization that my whole morning routine (or lack thereof) was a manifestation of my lack of discipline in my life.
My friends and I have talked a lot about how we have seen our generation become squishy and non-committal, partly due to the ease of communication. If I receive an invitation for a party on Friday, I can put off responding or respond with a general “well, I’ll see how my week goes…” and hold out to see if other invitations roll in by then. I can wait for the best possible invitation. Or I can cancel at the last minute with a simple text. It’s frustrating when you’re on the receiving end, but we all do it. So we’ve talked about the need to make our “yes be yes” (James 5:12). Commit, even in the little things, like weekend plans. After all, not only is our lack of commitment inconsiderate, it’s not virtuous. If we can’t commit in the small things, how will we ever commit in the big things?
And that’s what I realized about my morning routine. I was beginning every single day with a lack of commitment. So it’s no wonder the rest of my day was full of a lack of discipline. Whether it was running late or simply giving into creature comforts, I was allowing my will, emotions, and passions to rule the roost.
Once I started saying no to my body at the beginning of the day—silencing that voice inside of me that wanted eight more minutes of sleep, rather than silencing my alarm—I began to notice a change. While I wasn’t giving up my snooze button in order to be more productive or becoming a morning person, those things began to happen. Why? Because discipline at the beginning of the day affected the rest of my day. Once we say yes in the heroic minute (to steal St. Josemaria Escriva’s phrase) perhaps the more God helps us say yes to heroism throughout the day.
That is why we fast, whether it’s from chocolate or our snooze button. It’s a matter of telling our stubborn wills and our sensible appetite that we will not be slaves to them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with my snooze button, but there is something wrong in being a slave to it. And the sooner I can free myself from slavery to it, the sooner I can free myself to submit my will and intellect to the Lord throughout the day.
When people asked what I gave up for Lent, many would laugh when they heard about the snooze button. Most didn’t laugh because it was silly—most laughed because they knew exactly what it was like to fall victim to that temptation at the first minute of their day. And while some said they could never do that, at least not yet, I urged them to try. Maybe you think you’ll work on something else first and discipline another part of your life before trying it. But why try to clean up the rest of your day when you’re squishy in the very first minute? Why try to commit to things throughout the day after you’ve begun your day with a lack of resolve?
Even though Lent is over, it’s time for me to get back on the wagon and boycott my snooze button. Not simply because it makes me more productive, gives me more time for prayer in the morning, and changes the rest of my day, but because it’s time for me to remind my passions who is boss.
Lent isn’t the only time for cultivating virtue. Tomorrow morning, I will let my yes be yes.