Today I’m going to reach into the goodie-bag of wisdom, appropriately named The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
If you’ve never picked up this gem, you ought to. The Catechism is basically the Catholic understanding, interpretation, and sermon on the Bible.
Okay enough on the catechism. Now let’s use it!
I want to hone in on one of the seven virtues: temperance. I often talk about temperance on this blog, but in sneaky ways. If you’ve been around for awhile, you know I often talk about the importance of building silence into our lives is. The primary way I recommend people to do this is to identify the noise – be it unnecessary audio noise in the background, unnecessary visual stimuli, or silencing your phone – in order to literally allow for more silence in daily life.
A quick look at the paragraph in the Catechism about the virtue of temperance teaches us three important lessons:
1809 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 appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” 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.”
- Practicing temperance moderates our attraction to good things – without moderation we indulge, which is the definition of addiction
- Practicing temperance provides balance – who doesn’t want to be balanced?!
- Practicing temperance allows us to direct ourselves toward what is good
Basically, one who practices temperance well is the person who is most free, because he or she has total control.
Why Practice Temperance
Lucky for us the very next paragraph after the paragraph on Temperance touches on why we should care about it at all:
1810 Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God’s help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.
5 Easy Ways to Practice Temperance
Since temperance is the deliberate practice of moderating stimuli of the flesh, the Teacher in me decided to break this down into a series of “yeses” instead of a series of ‘no’s’. I simply took each of the five senses and applied the phrase, “how to give ______ a break.”
The key to making any of these points useful, practical, and even possible is to, ironically, do it in moderation. You can’t build all of these tips into your life every single day. It probably won’t happen. But do it slowly, moderately, and reasonably.
- Give your eyes a break. One way to give your eyes a break is to get away from anything ‘screen’ related. Put down the burning light of your iPad, iPhone, computer, and TV at night. Maybe one night a week, or two, have a tech-free evening after 7:30pm. Only books, games with people you live with, bike rides, prayers, going for a walk (and saying a Rosary on the walk).
- Give your ears a break. I’m a huge advocate and promoter of eliminating background noise. Turn off the TV if you’re not watching it. If you immediately say, “No, I have to have something on in the background”, shut up and turn off the TV and calm yourself down. You sound like an idiot when you say that. Cultivating silence will increase your mental energy and peace throughout your day. You will find that time goes slowly and you become more productive without it. Your brain unconsciously takes note of the alerts, the advertisements, and the noise, which takes up a bunch of energy, even if you don’t think it is.
- Give your mouth a break. One part of temperance is to eat simple, delicious, clean and light food. Eat salads – refresh your palette with natural ingredients and lay off the Doritos and insane amounts of sugars. Back to nature, people.
- Give your nose a break. Have you ever woke up in the morning and went outside, took a giant deep breath and savored the fresh morning smell of dew? It’s amazing. Or stopped in the middle of the day when you’re walking outside, closed your eyes, and just inhaled a deep breath, taking note of the fresh, warm air? It’s an incredible way to experience the present moment, and appreciate what’s right in front of you.
- Give your body a break. Your body as a whole can benefit from you practicing temperance. Everything sexuality can fall into this ‘body’ category, but so can physical exercise and being wise enough to know how much sleep you need every night to function at your best. There are several ways for you to give your body a ‘break.’ In what ways are you being tough on your body physically or sexually? Maybe take a chill pill once in a while! Are you working out too hard to the point that you’re sore? Maybe you drink too much too often, feeling like you have just been hit again by another semi. Or maybe 6 hours of sleep just isn’t cutting it for you anymore, and you need a 7th. What can you do to build that reality into your schedule? Practicing temperance with your body should leave your entire being refreshed, healthy, and performing at your best, in more ways than one!
Temperance. Not such a kill-joy after all, is it?