Temperance

Dictionary Definition:

noun: temperance
abstinence from alcoholic drink.
“the temperance movement”
synonyms: teetotalism, abstinence, abstention, sobriety, self-restraint
antonyms: alcoholism
moderation or self-restraint, especially in eating and drinking.

Wikipedia Definition:

Restraint, temperance, justice. Constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings; practicing self-control, abstention, moderation and deferred gratification. Prudence to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time. Proper moderation between self-interest, versus public-interest, and against the rights and needs of others.

Temperance often brings to mind the idea of abstention from alcohol. People automatically think of the temperance movement and a brutal self-restraint. That doesn’t sound particularly enjoyable. However, I don’t think that self deprivation was ever what Aristotle intended when he included temperance in his list of cardinal virtues – the first four Catholic virtues are the cardinal virtues of ancient greek philosophy. While I was researching temperance for this post, another word came to mind. Moderation. 

My personal life philosophy includes the term “everything in moderation.” I think that going overboard with anything in life pulls us away from being happy. Not practicing moderation can lead to serious problems in life including health issues, emotional issues, and mental instability. 

I think that everyone has at least one area in their life where temperance would help. Practicing restraint when you’re inclined towards excess can be a very freeing experience. Notice that I said restraint, not exclusion. Rigidity leads to anxiety, desperation, a feeling of lack, FOMO and unpleasantness. Practicing moderation helps ease those negative feelings and allows us to be more accepting, gentle, and loving of ourselves.

In my experience, practicing temperance as moderation has opened up a happiness within me that I previously was missing. It’s an extremely freeing experience, and one I feel is essential to life. Today, try to define one are of your life where you’re being too rigid, too totalitarian, or too excessive. Make it a goal to practice moderation in that area regularly, until you’re able to do so intuitively. You’ll experience such a dramatic change in your life than I bet you’ll want to apply temperance to other areas as well.  

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