It’s Shrove Tuesday 2016. And I’ve decided to do a thing that some may (in fact I’m sure will) call extreme. I’ve decided to give up my hair for lent.
Last year, I didn’t give up anything for Lent. My excuse? I had given up my life in order to write my dissertation, and there was nothing left to give up. Therefore, I was trying to put a little bit more thought into what to give up this year. Swearing? Too f***ing hard. Facebook? Be serious. Palm Oil? Ah, now we’re talking. We all know that I’m a self confessed eco-warrior, and have a strong interest in social justice, and so I thought I’d hit the money. It would mean me giving up almost all sugary treats (the classic Lenten sacrifice), but also give me a bigger reason to do it with the opportunity to learn and teach others about sustainability along the way. Furthermore, it would mean clean eating and thus a slimmer me. AND saving money. Win, win. Tick, tick tick. Well done me.
Then I got to thinking about what Lent is really about. If I gain all of these things (better health, better bank balance) through my supposed sacrifice, am I REALLY sacrificing anything at all? Will this sacrifice benefit others? Will it get me thinking, reflecting, meditating, praying? Honestly…no.
When I read this article about Pope Francis’s Lent message, I knew what had to be done. In it, the Pope encourages us to fast from the indifference that has permeated modern society, in order to feel compassion at the outcry of the poor, weep for other people’s pain, and feel a need to help them by making room for God’s voice and love in our lives. I’ve been so distracted by all these “things” in my life over the last few months, that I am definitely guilty of living a life of indifference, something that 16 year old me swore that I would never do. These “things” that I’m talking about aren’t just the material world that I get lost in every single day. It’s guilt about stupid things I’ve done (which is silly because God forgives everything!), it’s wondering where I come from and belong (Zimbabwe? Kenya? England? Scotland? Italy?), it’s questions about what I want to do with my life (teacher? politician? charity work?)…
Donating my hair is something that I have thought and talked about doing for a long time, but I don’t think that I’ve ever really meant it. I’ve always wanted to be able to tickle my bum with my hair. This is the longest and healthiest that my hair has ever been, and anyone who has spoken to me in the last three years knows that I am incredibly proud and incredibly vain over it. It’s become such an idol in my life, and such a part of how I see myself, that I’m convinced that having long hair has made me more confident, and have more self-worth and self-belief. I’m also convinced that it has made me feel more feminine and sexy. Why should my identity be so intertwined with my hair!? It is literally just a bunch of dead skin cells that society has decided to put a value on! I am too busy looking to society for justification, where the traditional view of a beautiful woman is one with long, luscious locks.
By shaving my head and donating my hair to the Little Princess Trust I hope to start a journey. A 40 day journey of letting go of all of these “things” and learning how to trust God and depend on Him and His joy. And learning more about myself, and about who I am and want to be. Learning about how I react to being treated differently, because it’s a fickle world that we live in, and I’m sure that something as inconsequential as cutting my
hair short will lead to some very different interactions with people, and thus myself. And I want to take the time and space to reflect on it.
So yes, maybe it is a bit extreme. But I love doing things that people don’t expect. And even more than that, I LOVE a good story.