We have previously explored the virtue of prudence which allows one to approach situations and make wise decisions. A virtue that goes hand in hand with prudence is temperance. This virtue by definition moderates the desire for pleasure however it is much more than that. Our day to day lives may seem like a constant struggle against sin and in some sense they are. Temperance allows us to resist even the strongest feelings towards sin and enables us to instead do the right thing.
Concupiscence…the great temptation
Since the Fall of Adam and Eve we are prone to sin. Concupiscence is simply a fancy theological word to describe that. This desire for sin manifests itself in many ways. For today’s post we will focus exclusively on the sin of excess otherwise known as gluttony. For some that may occur in an excessive intake of sugary sodas, for others it could be a habit of over eating and still others may face this in excessive consumption of alcohol. When we consume more than we really require this is gluttony. Do we really need donut number five after we already had one or two? Did you realize the entire bag of M&Ms is gone in a day when it was left sitting open on your desk? Or that bag of chips?….we could go on and on.
The brick wall of temperance
Temperance is that wall that prevents these things from happening. Whereas prudence gives us the ability to analyze the situation, temperance gives us the means to make it happen. It allows us to put a stop to the habits and actions that take a not necessarily bad thing and turn it into a habit of excessiveness.
In essence temperance is a brick wall that stands in our way. It’s a permanent roadblock that once cultivated and constructed, it protects us from ourselves. We are our own worst enemy. None of the examples listed above are in themselves a bad thing. An occasional donut, soda or social drink has ever harmed anyone. It’s the excess and abuse that do. No one became a diabetic by drinking one soda a month, ten a day is another story.
One step further
The Catechism gives perhaps the clearest direction on temperance.
Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetite toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion. Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.” In the New Testament it is called moderation or sobriety. We ought to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world. (CCC 1809)
The Saints are our guide
Saint Augustine is perhaps one of our greatest examples of someone who overcame a desire for excess. Prior to his conversion Augustine was deeply immersed in sins of sexual excess. As he writes in his book Confessions, he eventually desired to break free of these sins of the flesh. It proved difficult to do so. How did he do it? He persevered through prayer, reading of Scripture and frequent use of the sacraments. These practices strengthened him and fortified his resolve to overcome his addiction.
We can be like Augustine. No sin or excess is unsurmountable. Working in union with God we can overcome anything. Out loving Father is there to carry and guide through our trials. We simply have to ask for grace and mercy and they both will be granted. No matter what you are currently facing you can overcome it….just ask. God’s mercy is abundant.