This is far less sexy than all of the other virtues, because temperance gets right down to the marrow. What I mean is that if you practice temperance – you cannot do it part way: It is the hard path – the narrow way. Temperance helps you avoid overconsumption by monitoring moderation and self restraint. But what is temperance all about? How can it help us to get to “the good life.”
“But Thom, you have already done posts on Self Control, Delayed Gratification and Pleasure and Pain aren’t you beating a dead horse?” It might seem that way, but Temperance is more than self control. Temperance is defined as having the control over taking things to excess. Temperance also has such theological importance that all of the major religions have it as a virtue.
Temperance is not just one single idea, and like the other virtues of strength it has virtues of its own. The virtues that we will be covering today are: Forgiveness and mercy, humility and modesty, self control and abstinence, and hospitality.
Forgiveness and Mercy
Forgiveness and mercy are close relatives, but they are definitely not the same. Forgiveness deals with letting someone off the hook for an injustice that they have caused you, and mercy is not punishing someone that needs punished.
“Forgiveness is for you – not the other person. It’s something you do inside yourself that you feel in your body and heart that releases you from your past and frees you to live life fully.”Barbara J Hunt
When you are hurt or offended, when you are wronged, when you have been taken advantage of, it is your right to forgive. However, when you hold onto that anger, that hurt or that pain, all you are doing is hurting yourself. When you really forgive someone, that anger, hurt and pain start to subside.
I have known people that cannot let anything go. When my family moved up to Washington the second time, we ended up staying with my parents. One day my older three kids were playing in the backyard, and my dad came running out of the house, claiming my oldest son kicked over a plastic yard decoration – a duck. My son said that he didn’t kick the duck, but he apologized anyway. My dad brought up that duck for many years to come. It became a saying in my house, whenever someone was holding onto a grudge: “That damn duck.”
Grudges are stupid, and I have held onto many grudges myself. but they don’t do anything to the other person, it only robs you of your joy. You need to see that your reaction is hurting you more than the person that did you wrong.
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”Abraham Lincoln
Humility and Modesty
This virtue is the most difficult to self judge, it does require mastery but to say that you are humble and modest – is to exhibit pride and your house of cards will crumble. So how do we know when we are humble and modest, and what is the purpose?
Some people think that humility is good, while modesty is bad. I don’t agree with them. You can be humble and modest at the same time. Humility is where you don’t think of yourself more than you actually are. You are kind and appreciative to those that are around you, because you realize that you cannot live this life in isolation; humility is “others” focused – you lift up those around you.
Where modesty comes in to play is, when you give someone a helping hand, you don’t stand around waiting for applause. They can say thank you, and in humility you can accept it. There is a difference in getting appreciation and seeking appreciation. Seeking appreciation is like wanting to get paid, getting appreciation – without asking for it – is like getting a gift. We need to stop looking for payment for everything we do. On the other hand, we need to be free with our gifts – accept appreciation, otherwise it seems like false modesty.
Self Control and Abstinence
“Here he goes again preaching about self control.” Yes, self control is very important. You see temperance is a virtue, because it makes a person be good, because it implies moderation. What we are talking about is the self regulation of your five senses, that being: taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell.
What everyone should be looking for in their life, to be a better person is moderation and in some cases total abstinence. I know total abstinence is difficult, but it can be the best thing for us. So a couple of years ago,I was listening to a nutritionist online and he said that if I was putting garbage in my body, my body would show it on the outside, so I decided to go off of sugar – to totally abstain from sugar all together. Now before this, I drank my coffee with sweetened creamer, I ate ice cream, desserts were a thing and the occasional donut was not out of the question. Then I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked horrible. I started feeling better and my weight was starting to go down, once sugar was out of my diet.
I jumped off that wagon when I changed jobs, I went from an office job to driving for a rideshare company full time. I thought that I could not keep up the diet while I was on the road. My physique suffered. The point is – abstinence is wonderful, but you need to keep it up. You see abstinence needs to be a lifestyle; if you are going to change your diet, you need to make it a lifestyle change. If you don’t, your body and your self esteem will suffer.
“The glutton is much more than an animal and much less than a man.”Honore de Balzac
This also is a difficult one, because this means that we need to open our homes to other people. Our sanctuary will be disturbed and they might judge us on our ability to keep a clean house. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The fact is, if someone wants to come over, it is not to visit your house. It is to visit you in your house. Now if you don’t want someone to know where you live, then it is perfectly reasonable to have your visit off site as it were. However, if you are doing that, just so you don’t have someone in your house, you aren’t being hospitable, and that is judgemental appropriate.
I understand having someone in my house can be daunting sometimes, especially if they drop by unexpectedly. When I was in my late 20’s two guys came by my house, they wanted to get me into a marketing scheme. I was all for it, until they came by. My house was a mess and I was embarrassed. One of the guys asked if he could use my restroom, and I lied and told him it was broken. They left and I never sold for them. However, I was not hospitable either. Since then, I do attempt to keep the house picked up, it isn’t always perfect, but you don’t have to move laundry off of the couch to sit.
Some helpful hints about keeping a house clean. It is easier to keep clean then to clean. In other words, if your house is clean, just pick up after yourself and put things away. You might have to do some deep cleaning on the weekends, but during the week, your house is presentable.
Temperance is about keeping a balanced lifestyle, it is about controlling your urges and having mastery over instincts and keeping your desires within limits. Temperance is about showing forgiveness, about evaluating your emotions and knowing that sometimes the person you are hurting with your anger and resentment is yourself. It is about offering a hand without expecting anything – even a thank you – in return, but if you get a thank you, take it as a gift. Temperance is about opening oneself and exposing even where you live. To take someone in and share with them. If I was to sum up Temperance in just one sentence; temperance is becoming the best friend that a friend would like to have.