Temperance vs miserliness

- Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

Nowadays, when we are pushed to heighten our concern for the environment, what with all this hot talk about global warming and climate change, we need to resurrect a basic virtue, one of the cardinal virtues, in fact, that I believe figures at the very root of this issue.

This is none other than the virtue of temperance that has something to do with the prudent use of material things or the goods of the earth. It involves some degree of restraint and moderation in the use of things, knowing that we can easily be spoiled by them.

Temperance, to put it bluntly, has as its purpose the integration of the material aspect of our nature with the spiritual dimension of our life and our supernatural goal. It aims to keep and nourish the integrity of our life that is often threatened by a variety of divisive factors of our earthly life, due to our proneness to pride, vanity, greed, envy, etcetera. These have the nasty habit of misusing things.

We have to understand that any concern for the environment, which can have tremendous aspects and dimensions that can extend all the way to the global, atmospheric and even cosmic, should start with this basic virtue of temperance that should be lived in the personal level before it is lived in the higher levels of our social life.

Without this personal temperance, all those big efforts in the national and international levels would come out as a heavy construct merely floating on air. It is bound to collapse sooner or later.

And so we have to foster a greater awareness of the practical consequences of personal temperance. Since we are in the midst of a madness of materialism, commercialism and consumerism, let us ask ourselves whether we are having things that we actually do not need.

Better still, let us examine the motives for acquiring things. Do we buy things because we really need them, or are we simply driven by vanity, pride or greed when we make those purchases?

Do we take good care of the things we possess, so that they last and are used properly? Are we taking austerity measures especially in the use of basic items like food, drinks, electricity, water, etcetera? Do we prefer organic materials than synthetic ones? Do we develop a simple lifestyle or an extravagant, ostentatious one?

Do we walk sometimes, or take the bike or the public transport instead of using our personal cars from time to time? Do we deprive ourselves of the use of aircon for a time?

These may just be considered as puny things, but when they become part of our life and our culture, these can contribute greatly in cleaning up the air and the environment in general.

To be sure, temperance has nothing to do with miserliness and pusillanimity, that anomalous tendency to be overly sparing in the use of things and small-heartedness. Temperance goes very well with generosity and the effort to undertake well-planned big projects, not afraid to use whatever money and other resources are needed to attain a good goal.

Temperance is not just a matter of saving, keeping and hoarding things for the sake of simply saving, keeping and hoarding them. Its restraint and moderation are meant to contribute to one's personal good and welfare, and more importantly, to the common good.

So temperance is actually a very cheerful virtue that can give one a deep sense of confidence and security. Its requirement of sacrifice is simply an expression of love, that is, love of God and love for others, and not self-love. If one truly lives it, he will have a smiling face, not a long, sad one.

We need to popularize this virtue. Sad to say, it looks as if it is facing extinction. We need to show the true beauty of temperance, purifying it from the baseless fears that it is going to be a hindrance in our economic development and in the pursuit of what is innovative, beautiful, convenient, etcetera.

Obviously, in this effort of purifying its image, we need to define what true economic, let alone, human development is, what would comprise as a true good for us, as real and lasting beauty for us, etcetera. At the moment, we cannot deny that we are bombarded with false images of these values.

In the end, we cannot help but relate all this effort about temperance to the ultimate source of what is true, good and beautiful in the world, God himself, our Creator. These do not depend on our consensus alone.

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