Religion: Virtue of Temperance

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MartiniA little over a month ago, I decided to give up drinking until I was 21 years old; until I was of age to legally drink. Now, I’m not a huge party person or even a big drinker. I don’t even think I’ve been drunk before. (I think.) I just enjoy going out with my friends at the end of the week, getting tipsy and having a good time.

Then, I was told that underage drinking was a sin because it was breaking the law of my country, and that God tells us to obey the laws of our land as long as they do not go against His laws. (Romans 13:1-7; Acts 5:27-29) So, though it was a difficult decision to make, I gave up drinking.

There are a lot of people, I’m sure, that would say that I am being weak by accepting a “rule” like that. I even thought it was crazy the first time I heard that. I thought: “I’m just a college student doing what college students do. So what if its against the law? I’m not hurting anyone.” Then, I actually read the passage from Romans and I realized that I needed to make a choice.

When I thought about my reasons for ignoring the law, I realized how easy it was for me to rationalize things. I think about how easy it is for us to rationalize anything we want to. How easy it is for us to turn something we know is wrong, and making it okay.

Temperance keeps us from doing this. Temperance fights that human idea of rationalization. It is the control we have over our human desires and instincts. It keeps us from letting our flesh take over our minds. As human beings, we have desires and instincts that go against what is morally right. What may be considered the honorable thing to do is not always what our DNA is telling us to do. A good example of this is selfishness; when we put ourselves ahead of others. We do it for all sorts of reasons. Biologically, we are inclined to look out for ourselves before someone else. However, we are taught to look out for each other. This is something most of us are taught from a young age. Selfishness is still out there, though, and we must always fight it by telling ourselves to do what we know is right.

But where I lack in temperance is with the sins of pride, sloth, and gluttony. Pride is the sin of wanting to be superior and looking for an excellence that we can never attain. It leads to many other sins, because it makes us sin in other ways to attain that superiority we want. Sloth is laziness spiritually, and also when laziness in other areas leads you to spiritual laziness. Gluttony is taking excessive food or drink for the sake of pleasure.

Unfortunately, I am really good at rationalizing my reasons for doing something I know I shouldn’t be doing. It’s not always in a sinful way, but it can easily lead to sin. I can justify being prideful when I accomplish something, but there’s a difference between being happy over an achievement and being boastful. Not to mention, that my achievements–anyone’s achievements–are a result of the gifts God has given us. The achievement belongs to Him as well. I can rationalize being lazy by saying that I deserve it because I’m tired, I’ve been working hard, etc. But there is a difference between being lazy and getting rest at the appropriate times. I can reconcile being gluttonous if I’ve missed a few meals or been fasting. But then I have to ask myself: what was I fasting for in the first place?

To separate myself from the flesh. To learn how to refuse the flesh its desires. To learn how to use temperance.

In gluttony, I find my desire to drink, justified by the fact that I said it was a silly law in the first place. Do I still disagree with the law? Yes. Is it doing anyone any harm by me following it? No. Therefore, I have found that I can refuse my flesh by practicing this drinking fast until the law permits me to drink.

The decision was tough because I was afraid. I didn’t want to be judged by my friends. I didn’t know what I would say when they said we were going out. But after a good amount of prayer, I knew that I couldn’t let being judged stand between me and getting closer to Christ. I also found faith that my true friends would not judge me. Besides, I will always love them–whether they judge me or not–because I truly care about them in every aspect of their life. That’s what Jesus told me while I prayed about this.

This drinking fast has helped me in my other areas of sin. By practicing temperance with my drinking fast, temperance has come more easily with other temptations.

A couple of weeks ago, a mentor of mine asked me what I thought God was preparing in my heart. I answered fortitude and temperance. I said this because of what God has been asking me to do lately. Like giving up drinking and writing this blog and other things I do in His name. These things were all calling for an increase in temperance and fortitude. I know that He is helping me build up those virtues now because I will need them later.

So, I ask you, what has God been preparing in your heart? Are you opening your heart to Him?

At night, I pray for God’s grace, Christ’s heart and example, and the Holy Spirit’s passion. This Trinity will guide me through whatever I am asked to do. All I have to say is: “Yes, Lord. Lead the way.”

Kaitlin Davis

Kaitlin Davis

Kaitlin Davis is a Catholic undergrad student in Louisiana. She has been recently turned back on fire for her Catholic faith. She is the author of the blog This Year of Faith. She has always liked to write, and even though it has always been a hobby, she is now using it to reach out to people.

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7 thoughts on “Religion: Virtue of Temperance”

  1. Avatar

    If we only disagree with a law, then we are still bound to obey it – but if it is an objectively unjust law, then it is no law at all, and we are not bound to obey it. I think that this is the case with laws against drinking underage, at least 18-21. Still, there may be good reasons to obey it – to avoid punishments or to teach observers about obedience or for mortification.

    1. Avatar

      I guess I don’t see the drinking law as an unjust one; just an annoying one. An example of an unjust law to me that I would disobey, because of my principles, would be the health care mandate that makes businesses pay for abortifacients and contraceptives even if it is against the business owner’s religious beliefs.
      As for obeying the underage drinking law, like I said in the article, I use it as a way to teach myself temperance and fasting. I can easily get my hands on alcohol whenever I want. And sometimes I’m tempted to drink with my friends. But I won’t mainly due to the purpose of growing in temperance.

  2. Avatar

    I’ve always felt it was our responsibility, as Christians, to be as much like Christ as possible. I can’t see him caving in to social expectations. And in my mind’s eye, I can’t see him drinking and getting drunk. So when you do turn 21, I wouldn’t think it’s mandatory that you start doing so. I think it’s possible to go out with friends and have a good time without getting tipsy, even if you have to find new friends.

    1. Avatar

      Don’t worry, I won’t be setting out to get drunk on my 21st birthday. Abusing our bodies in any way should be seen as a sin. So, yes, I agree that striving to be like Christ should be every Christian’s battle. For now, practicing temperance by avoiding alcohol is how I am doing that. And I have successfully gone out with friends and haven’t had a drink. Thanks for the reply!

      1. Avatar

        Kaitin, thank you for this article, very thought provoking, especially how we need to take care of our bodies, which are the TEMPLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. I am happy to have read your post, and also more joyful that your on fire for the FAITH. Please continue your good work.

        Happy Christmas, and its blessings of PEACE and JOY in the New Year 2013,


  3. Pingback: Pope's Caveats on Subsidiarity, Charity, and Social Teaching | Big Pulpit

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