“Perfect wisdom has four parts, viz., wisdom, the principle of doing things aright; justice, the principle of doing things equally in public and private; fortitude, the principle of not flying danger, but meeting it; and TEMPERANCE, the principle of subduing desires and living moderately.” ~~ Plato
Merriam Webster defines temperance as, “1: moderation in action, thought, or feeling : restraint
2 a : habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions, b : moderation in or abstinence from the use of alcoholic beverages.
So temperance is basically having self-control over our desires, behaviors and actions.
Unfortunately moderation isn’t what’s encouraged these days. Instead we’re taught by the influences around us to look out for number one. We’re told to go for all the gusto, because we only go around once. So we find ourselves fulfilling our wants, and seeking pleasure instead of character.
The word temperance has almost become archaic in our day. The influences around us teach us to indulge our appetites rather than control them. We’re told that we’re the most important person in the world, and we should not deny ourselves. Self-sacrifice and self-control has become passé’. Doing whatever feels good has become the mantra.
The bible speaks clearly about being temperate:
1 Corinthians 9:25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
Titus 2:2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience;
Now, let me be clear about something before I go any further; to be temperate doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life. It also doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy food or a drink. What temperance is the control of our appetites and desires rather than our appetites and desires controlling us.
When we enjoy some delicious food, do we eat a reasonable portion and then stop, or do we go back for a second helping because it tastes good? Do we consider an all you can eat buffet to be a challenge? Can we enjoy a couple beers or glasses of wine and stop at that, or do we keep drinking until we can’t walk or think strait? Can we enjoy a small piece of cake or do we have to have a huge one?
Temperance isn’t just about food and drink either, it’s about how we react to everyday situations. It’s about how we behave when someone cuts us off, or is rude to us? Temperance is about our demeanor in every area of our life.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you I have temperance totally under control, because I don’t. I struggle with the desire to eat and sometimes drink more than I should. I lose my temper more than I care to admit.
That, of course, is where the cultivate part comes in. If you read my last post you will remember that one of the definitions of cultivate is to improve by labor, care, or study. So I am, as I hope you are, working and moving toward temperance by studying and coming to better understand what it means to be temperate. I’m also seeking to better understand the triggers and attitudes that work against temperance, and I’m talking to God about it.
I’m sure, like myself, there are many things you have learned to be temperate in; but if you’re anything like me, you still have lots of work to do. After all, we are still a work in process and in need of a lot of help from God.
If you look at history you will find that great men and women who served something bigger than themselves considered temperance to be a fundamental character trait. I read on a website called being George Washington, that as a man of faith and character George Washington achieved a life of high morale standard by practicing temperance in almost everything he did.
C.S. Lewis said, “A man who is eating or lying with his wife or preparing to go to sleep in humility, thankfulness and temperance, is, by Christian standards, in an infinitely higher state than one who is listening to Bach or reading Plato in a state of pride.”
Temperance isn’t something we’re born with; it’s something we cultivate over time. It starts with a desire to be what God has called us to be, and continues with a willingness to follow and obey that God.