I just came back in town after a wedding in our family. It was a beautiful wedding overflowing with joy and laughter and wonderful friends and family. Of course, it’s not too hard to get me to reminisce about my own wedding and this weekend sent me down memory lane.
I have this distinct memory of walking around a department store with my then fiance registering for gifts. My husband is a decisive guy and he also works very quickly when he sets his mind to something. So, when it came to registering for gifts, we were flying through that store making decisions left and right!
At one point in the process, we had to decided how many place settings we thought we would need and we came up with the number 12. From that point on, when we were in doubt of how many of any gift we would like, he would blurt out, “Twelve!” Keep in mind that this response only remained relevant around five minutes after the FIRST time he uttered it. After that, it became comical. At some point, it went from comical to annoying and then back to comical again.
To this day, he will still blurt out “We need twelve!” when faced with some consumer item. Don’t worry, he’s joking. He’s also been known to say, “If one is good, twelve must be better!” That’s his way of pointing out the strangely common mindset that we have in our nation that “more is better”. Another way he’s put his observations into words is by saying, “An all-you-can-eat buffet is not the same as an all-you-should-eat buffet”. In other words, just because you can eat it doesn’t mean you should. Seriously, does ANYONE need an unlimited supply of pizza for one meal??
It’s hard to find people who have that mindset. (I found one but you have to find your own!) Unfortunately, most of us follow the philosophy of “more is better”. If one cookie tastes good, eating the whole package should taste better, right? One stomach ache and a few pounds later you then realize that maybe that idea doesn’t hold water. More isn’t better. It’s just more.
This is where the virtue of temperance comes to play in our lives. Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods (CCC 1809). This doesn’t just apply to tableware and baked goods. It also is true for the goods of creation-the natural resources that surround us.
In fact, when I first began this journey, temperance was the first virtue that I thought of. It occurred to me that if we all lived the virtue of temperance, not only would the earth benefit, it may even eliminate all of our environmental ills!
Of course, it’s not that easy. We’re human and we have human frailties. It’s so much easier to accumulate stuff than it is to form real relationships and deal with real emotions. There’s a reason why the term “retail therapy” is so popular.
But, by striving toward temperance, we can slowly begin to take control over the “stuff” that threatens to control us. We can become aware of the overabundance in our lives and maybe even redistribute that to those who are “under abundant”. By buying less and using less, there is more left for others both now and in the future. Not only do we benefit from temperance but so will our neighbors and so will the earth.
Next Week: Now it’s time for something a little different