Understanding Temperance

Temperance: habitual moderation in regard to the indulgence of the natural appetites and passions; restrained or moderate indulgence; moderation; as, temperance in eating and drinking; temperance in the indulgence of joy or mirth; specifically, moderation, and sometimes abstinence, in respect to using intoxicating liquors.

Temperance: 1) abstinence from alcohol: total abstinence from alcoholic drink. 2) restraint: self-restraint in the face of temptation or desire.
MSN Encarta

  • Temperance is about moderation — primarily from pleasures derived from food or drink or sexual conduct.
  • Temperance is about finding self-restraint with behaviors and expressions even though they are pleasurable.
  • Temperance is about attempting to walk the middle of the road and avoid straying over the lines.
  • Temperance is about seeking simplicity rather than complexity; finding the beauty in the understated rather than the overstated.
  • Temperance is about avoiding extremes within all aspects of our lives.

Benefits of Temperance

  • Temperance provides balance — it keeps us on an even keel, moving smoothly, on a path that avoids the potholes and bumps.
  • Temperance provides peace of mind — without being slaves to compulsions, impulses and obsessions.
  • Temperance provides stability — not falling victim to the call for excess and extremes.
  • Temperance provides security — there is comfort within the safety of well-established boundaries.
  • Temperance provides serenity — establishing and maintaining order where there was once chaos.

Acts of Temperance in Everyday Life

  • Surplus and Famine — as early as the Bible's telling of Joseph in Egypt — the need to save during the time of plenty rather than over-eat, in anticipation of the time of famine yet to come.
  • Savings Accounts and Investments — those who ration their money wisely, establish a secure cushion for the times when it is needed most.
  • Children's Classic Stories — In the famous children's fairy-tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears (believed to be an old Scandinavian, it is the 'just right' options, not the 'too hot' or 'too cold' that bring Goldilocks contentment.
  • Speed Limits — Posted on every roadway, in plain sight for all to see, some even showing a minimum as well as maximum speed that exhibits moderation.
  • Positive Parenting — Teaching children 'right-from-wrong,' balancing the setting and maintaining of clear, well-defined boundaries with unconditional love and acceptance.

Methods for Achieving Temperance

  • Practice Abstinence — Strengthen your temperance muscle by demonstrating the ability to do without. Experience and relish in the feeling of 'not having to' if you choose not to.
  • Mentally Walk Away — At the first sign of intense negative emotions within yourself, take a mental 'time out' from the situation, even if it is just by breathing deeply or counting to ten before continuing.
  • Give It Up — There is amazing strength to be found in acknowledging and accepting our personal limitations. We make real progress through steady, sometimes imperfect, but consistent behaviors, not in pushing frantically toward perfection.
  • Develop and Commit to Self-Care — It is impossible to give away something we don't have in the first place. We need to check-in and self regulate by nurturing ourselves in order to stay in balance.

Golden Mean

Drunkenness, gluttony
Unreasonable abstinence from food

Quotes for Temperance

Strength and beauty are the blessings of youth; temperance, however, is the flower of old age.
- Democritus -
Well observe the rule of Not too much, by temperance taught In what thou eat'st and drink'st.
- John Milton -
Abstinence is whereby a man refraineth from any thing which he may lawfully take.
- Sir Thomas Elyot -

Recommended Reading

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous , written in 1939 by Bill Wilson, is the most significant book I have found to deal with the issue of temperance at its root. In 2006, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous reported 1,867,212 members and 106,202 groups throughout the world. The Big Book details Bill Wilson's story of alcoholism and also details the methods of how to regain sobriety and joy.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Temperance is a mean with regard to pleasures. Aristotle