“Moderation” – unfortunately, it’s true. “Moderation” has become a bad word in our society. It’s almost as bad as “compromise” and “self-discipline”. For some reason the word moderation is now associated with a lack of commitment to a cause. Don’t believe me? Ask a politician. Being a “moderate Republican” or a “moderate Democrat” these days can almost be the kiss of death for a political career. Die hard supporters of either party seem to take it as a personal affront to their values if their elected officials don’t dig in their heels when faced with the possibility of (gasp) compromise. But we Catholics know better. We know that practicing moderation in our daily lives is how we live out the virtue of temperance and what better time to brush up on moderation than during the season of Lent.
Moderation can take many forms. You can moderate your eating, your spending, your emotions, your lifestyle, your political views, and even your spiritual life. But in a world where being extreme is often considered a compliment, how do we resist the temptation to go to the extreme?
I understand. Really, I do. The extreme is so much easier to achieve than the moderate. It requires a lot less thought than moderation does. And it’s easy to find lots of role models for extreme living. Just turn on any reality show and you’ll have your pick of extreme examples to choose from. All you have to do is pick a caricature of the lifestyle you want to live and have at it. Just remember,”more is more.” Do you want to get healthier? Just spend most of your time exercising and pushing your body beyond its limits. Whatever you do, don’t eat anything but fruit and vegetables and never let a carb pass your lips. Oh, and don’t worry about the risk of injury or missing time with your family. It’s for your health after all and your health is important.
But the life we’re called to live teaches us to avoid those extremes and seek balance in our lives. That’s part of what we do during the Lenten season. We seek to regain balance in the areas of our life that have gotten out of balance. Maybe we need to cut back on junk food or caffeine because we’ve noticed that those desires are beginning to control us (fasting). Maybe we need to spend more time in prayer because our lives have lost their focus on God (prayer). Maybe it means serving others in a new or deeper way to offset the selfishness that has started to dominate our hearts and minds (almsgiving).
Whatever weakness we discover in ourselves, Lent is a great time to start again; to change the parts of our life that have pulled us away from God. It’s a great time to strive for moderation and seek balance in all parts of our life. And, who knows, maybe the balance you achieve during Lent will stay with you after Easter.
Copyright 2013 Laura Nelson