If you’ve ever lost your temper you probably understand why self-control, or temperance, is a virtue. As one of the cardinals virtues—the others being prudence, justice, fortitude—temperance is a habit of excellence. It signifies self-mastery. One can practice temperance with food, sex, technology, and alcohol. But one can also practice temperance with emotions and relationships. You can even practice temperance in your attempts to practice temperance. It’s not a rule of measure we have to keep track of in everything we do. It’s a matter of the heart. God wants us to be pure on the inside.
Temperance is simply using something good in its intended, healthy, and natural proportions. When our relationship with God is good, we can enjoy his gifts the way he intended because we don’t feel the need to fill the God-shaped void in us that they cannot fill.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1809) states:
“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’ (Sirach 5:2). Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: ‘Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites’ (Sirach 18:30). In the New Testament it is called ‘moderation’ or ‘sobriety.’ We ought ‘to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world’ (Titus 2:12).”
St. Augustine states:
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).
Meet Jackie and Bobby Angel
Jackie Francois Angel is a full-time worship leader and speaker. Bobby Angel is a campus minister and theology teacher at a Catholic high school. Married in 2013, they have three beautiful children and strive to grow in holiness each day!