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On Temperance

Moderation: the great security guard; the guard rails on the open highway; the yellow lights; the red lights; the stop signs.

This particular virtue levels the playing field and exposes each and every player. Not only is temperance one of the seven biblical virtues, it is also one of the four stoic virtues, right there with wisdom, justice, and courage.

Temperance is a lifestyle, a plan to enjoy only what is required. Marcus Aurelius said, “If you seek tranquility, do less.... Because most of what we do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’l (Meditations 4.24). 

Temperance is a great paradox because it uses restraint to produce freedom.

In consistent restraint is found abundant freedom.  

Temperance financially, moderation in spending, allows freedom to do what really matters. Temperance with pleasure, moderation in indulgence, allows freedom to truly indulge in the most sublime moments. Temperance with food and drink, where is seems everyone can do better; allows freedom in health, longevity, confidence, and stamina.

It’s the practice of putting up guard rails and asking ourselves what is really necessary that gives us the most freedom in life. It is the virtue that requires the most practice and fine-tuning, the most difficult in many ways, since we live in a society where gluttony is celebrated.

“You deserve” is a phrase that inundates our lives, and it’s typically followed by an object that is completely unnecessary. 

 Without the virtue of self-restraint, temperance, we are essentially giving up our freedom and choosing the chains of over-indulgence. 

The players on the field who are living their best lives are the ones who are consistently asking themselves, “is this necessary?” 

The stoic way of life looks to greater things such as service to our communities and meaningful action. Self-discipline is essential to having a meaningful existence. A meaningful existence is essential to experiencing joy which is not fleeting or false. Aurelius attributes this idea of moderation to Epictetus: “we should obstain wholly from immoderate desire and try to avoid anything that is not subject to our control” (Meditations 11.36-37). Again, this points to the paradox that boundaries give way to freedom. 

Indulge less; love more; serve more; experience lasting freedom and joy. 

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