Temperance

Even when you figure out love and kindness, develop strong social skills, and become a leader in the community, all these gains could potentially go to waste if you lack temperance. For instance, lacking temperance can keep loved ones further away if you suffer from unnecessary emotional outbursts or if you refuse to forgive others on issues that simply don't hold the same value as your relationship with them. You may turn people off of you if you are a loud, obnoxious braggart. Or you may blow all your material gains on toys or simple pleasures that are just a flash in the pan compared to the things that are truly important. All this different scenarios are related because they can all be avoided through improving one's temperance; think of it as the trait that helps you keep all the benefits you receive from the other Universal Values.

Look at all the traits involved with temperance—and be careful. Too many people mistake these traits as negative or cowardly, but they are actually important to maintaining happiness throughout your life; these traits will only become a problem for you if you take them to the extreme, and people rarely do that in reality. All too often, in fact, people make excuses for their lack of temperance. For instance, if you believe you not only forgive people frequently but also "let people walk all over you," you need to stop and give your self a hard, strict reevaluation. Showing forgiveness and mercy, for example, simply means to let go of your bitter feelings and maintain your standards of how you treat other human beings even when they do you wrong. Resentment and revenge is never an appropriate response to a wrong committed against you—but this doesn't mean you have to be a push over. Even during something as serious and unfortunate as divorce, for example, one spouse can show forgiveness and mercy even while working to leave an unhealthy relationship (that's not to say temperance is always easy).

In other words, never let the excuse "he deserved that" or "I deserve this" justify poor behavior. When you show temperance you are almost always going to find great benefit at the expense of giving up your resentment or an immediate pleasure; even when you think there is a clear benefit to you by showing-off or refusing mercy in a given situation, note that your behavior dictates what you become and if you are not careful you will eventually develop a lack of temperance that will haunt everything you do.

How can you develop temperance? By practice, of course. You will also need to look at areas in your life where you loose self-control and develop tactics to prevent you from acting out on these urges. If you frequently get angry, for instance, you could get in the habit of leaving the scene until you have a chance to calm down and make logical, humane decisions. If you spend too much money you may have to find ways to budget or physically limit yourself to keep you from giving in (by not carrying credit cards with you, for instance). Sometimes you will also need to work on skills to overcome problem areas. For instance, when it comes to forgiving others and mercy, you would need to learn how to see things from another person's perspective and personally understand that no-one will completely avoid bad behavior—and even behave badly to the ones they love from time-to-time.

Keeping a daily journal and tracking your progress will also help. For one thing, it might be an outlet for frustration and also make you aware of mistakes that you might not have noticed during the heat of the moment; self-reflection is a great tool to self-improvement.

Strengths of Temperance

Take a look at these traits and make sure that you honestly evaluate yourself in each and every area.

  • Forgiveness and mercy — Forgiveness is being able to forgive others and not hold on to bitterness. Mercy means showing people basic, human respect and kindness to others, even when they make mistakes.
  • Humility and modesty — You are not the best in the world at anything, and you don't live in a world where most people are morons when compared to you. If you live in pride you won't take the opportunity to learn from others or accept criticism.
  • Prudence — This means avoiding decisions that will harm others or hurt and embarrass you in the long run. This also means preparing for the future and not only for today.
  • Self-regulation and self control — This is the ability to direct you own behavior, like avoiding unhealthy urges or managing your anger, for instance.

Opinions

Be studious in your profession, and you will be learned. Be industrious and frugal, and you will be rich. Be sober and temperate, and you will be healthy. Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy. At least you will, by such conduct, stand the best chance for such consequences.

Benjamin Franklin

A wise man is superior to any insults which can be put upon him, and the best reply to unseemly behavior is patience and moderation.

Moliere

The heart is great which shows moderation in the midst of prosperity.

Seneca

Moderation, which consists in an indifference about little things, and in a prudent and well-proportioned zeal about things of importance, can proceed from nothing but true knowledge, which has its foundation in self-acquaintance.

Plato

Golden Mean

Excess, Self-indulgence
Temperance
Abstinence, Asceticism

Recommended Reading

A Guide to Rational Living — by Albert Ellis, Robert A. Harper

This book isn't all about temperance, but along with it's great advice for avoiding depression and other fears it also has a lot to say about developing self-control and temperance.

On Moderation: Defending an Ancient Virtue in a Modern World — by Harry Clor

This book provides expert interpretation and practical guidance for politicians (the art of balancing the extremes), philosophers (tempering the mind) and the rest of us (the art of taming the excess).

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.



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Temperance is a mean with regard to pleasures. Aristotle
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