Moderation (May 24)

 

“Whatever is enough is abundant in the eyes of virtue” (Seneca).

WE’VE ALL HEARD THAT “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” And yet, properly appreciated, enough is a good bit more than enough. Just the right amount of a thing (think of salt in your gravy) can do far more good than either too little or too much, and so “enough” is not simply something to accept; it’s something to be thankful for. As Seneca said, “Whatever is enough is abundant in the eyes of virtue.”

“Moderation” is the trait of avoiding extremes. That which is moderate is just right, neither too much nor too little. And so, to return to the cooking illustration, the moderate chef is the one who has both the knowledge and the discipline to put just the right amount of each ingredient in the pot to produce the best of all possible results. When he sees that he’s about to put too much or too little pepper in the gumbo, he moderates his actions, not because he’s weak or cowardly or colorless, but because he knows that the right amount will be much more delicious than any other amount. Moderation is an act of grace!

Some things, of course, should never be moderated. You can’t put too much integrity into your life, for example. When something is a matter of principle, moderation is indeed a sign of weakness. And so Thomas Paine was quite correct in this observation: “Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.”

That said, it is true that principles have to be balanced with one another, and balancing our principles does involve a certain kind of moderation. Moderation will teach us how to balance courage and kindness, decisiveness and patience, strength and gentleness, etc.

If we’re honest, however, most of us know that we need to learn moderation in regard to some things we have trouble controlling, such as “speaking our mind” and “using physical force.” A certain measure of these things is necessary sometimes, but used excessively or ill-advisedly, they can do great harm. If we had no ability or inclination in these areas, being moderate about them would be automatic. But the fact is, we do have the ability — and because we’re free to choose, we have to learn the valuable, but hard to master, skill of moderation.

“Moderation is a virtue only in those who are thought to have a choice” (Henry Kissinger).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com