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Temperance Matters

27 Oct

Temperance not only is undervalued but also misunderstood today. It does mean moderation, but not in a quantitative, mathematical sense. I could probably eat a dozen donuts, but that would be excessive. Yet not having any donuts would be excessive in the other direction, so I decide to eat only a half dozen. That’s a compromise, but not a temperate one!

Temperance is not pleasure avoidance, even though Prohibition was brought about by the “temperance movement.” And temperance is not merely “sin avoidance,” namely the mere absence of serious sins of gluttony or lust.

Temperance is all about living the good life. Here’s a textbook definition: Temperance moderates the attraction of sensual pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods.

Let’s simplify that: Passions (also known as desires or emotions) are a “given.” They are not good or evil in themselves, but must be harnessed by the intellect and will lest they run amok.

When emotions such as fear keep us from pursuing the good, we need the virtue of fortitude or courage to press on.

Other times our desires pull or even seduce us to seek what isn’t good for us. In those instances, temperance is the virtue that moderates these desires and directs them in a good and healthy way.

Temperance involves staying strong during a storm of passion. We know those storms: “munchies,” sugar cravings, a cold beer or two, sexual urges, anger, the thrill of a gamble or athletic competition, or an exhibition of speed.

Let’s face it, our sins tend to be rooted in disordered desires, so we need the virtue of temperance lest our desires take control of our lives. The various vices of intemperance will lead to addiction and enslavement—spiritual and at times physical and psychological as well.

The virtue of temperance when specifically applied to the area of sexuality is called chastity.

Everyone is called to chastity. It’s a manly thing, and it’s a difficult thing. Continue reading