A modern examination of conscience. (But not too modern… we’re loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church here!) The Temperance Challenge is also available in Spanish.
I didn’t want to write this challenge. Because Oreos. And Netflix. And Facebook infinite scroll.
I didn’t want to write it. But I needed to. Over-indulgence is so. hard. to. resist.
My mouth waters when I pass by the grid of fast food restaurants in the middle of town. My tablet glows late into the night when I can’t stop swiping. And my ears perk up when I hear someone say, “Do you know what she said to me last week?”
Oh, temperance, you’re so elusive. I need you bad but I don’t really want you.
God, give me the grace to desire temperance. Show me where I need it in my life. And help me grow in temperance this month. Amen.
What exactly is temperance?
Temperance is one of the cardinal virtues. It helps us moderate our appetites, our desire for pleasure. Now, before you walk away, thinking I’m going to go “all pleasure-is-bad” crazy on you, hear me out.
God gave us pleasure for a reason. Eating keeps us alive. Sex keeps the human race going. Netflix keeps my kids happy while I’m in the shower. But if we ate nonstop, that would be so unhealthy. And contrary to the culture’s popular opinion, sex is best within the confines of marriage. Netflix is great unless it deprives us of our sleep.
So God gives us temperance to help us find and set healthy limits on good things. To help us find balance. Who wants some more of that? ∗raises hand∗
Oreos, and Netflix, and Facebook, oh my… Tweet this.
Moderate your appetites:
Is there a single one of us who is free of this vice? You might be? Think again: the Oreo serving size is 3 cookies. Oops. But aside from the obvious failings, gluttony isn’t confined to overeating. It includes things like: being too picky about your food, undereating, irresponsible drinking, or choosing sugary snacks instead of healthy snacks. The temptation is everywhere: Dunkin Donuts drive-thrus call my name. And if we take an honest look around, our culture is suffering from this sin. I’m not body-shaming here. Being overweight isn’t an outward sign of gluttony. Anyone can struggle with gluttony, no matter their size. I’m pretty thin, and I need a gluttony-reality-check too.
- Try fasting instead.
The Church only requires two days of fasting throughout the entire year. Honestly, I could suck it up a little more and take these days seriously. And there’s that one-hour fast before receiving Communion. Only one hour. If I can’t stop shoveling food into my face for such a short amount of time, there’s something seriously wrong with me. (Unless you’ve got morning sickness – then a steady stream of crackers to keep you from puking is medicinal.) I know people who fast routinely, and I admire their self-control. If you feel called to do that too, go for it!
- Or eating healthy.
Mostly, we can fight gluttony by making healthy, balanced eating choices. We can snack on grapes instead of cookies. We can eat eggs for breakfast instead of donuts. We can skip the second helping dinner or the irresponsible drinking. And if undereating is our struggle, we can choose to eat three meals a day and snack as needed. We can let go of the obsession with calorie-counting, and embrace the life-giving value of food.
We have a whole challenge coming up on the virtue of chastity, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it while we’re working on temperance. Sexual promiscuity seems to be the norm in our culture. Every couple is having sex. Every brand advertises with sex. Every show and movie has at least one unfortunate sex-scene. Sex is wonderful, it’s awesome, it’s pleasurable, but it’s also so much MORE than that. Sex is sacred. Sex is life-giving. Sex is love. Resist the temptation to cheapen its value, to reduce it to pleasure. Say no to porn, lust, masturbation. Say yes to God’s plan for your body.
- Practice service and sacrifice.
Whether or not you’re married, your body is made to give and to receive. We’re created to live in community, to need each other, and to love each other. Practice service. Do little things to help those around you, to make their lives easier. Go out of your way to do something kind for someone else. Make a sacrifice that you really don’t feel like making, just to bring a smile to a friend’s face. And when you need help, accept it graciously. Speak the language of giving and receiving that your body is made for. If you’re married, this daily self-sacrificing love culminates in the act of sex. If not, hold out for the person you’ll dedicate your whole self to.
- Practice chastity within marriage.
For the married: we’re called to chastity too. The ring on your finger isn’t a pass to do whatever you want. Make sure you respect your spouse’s needs. Your sexual intimacy should express complete, selfless giving and receiving. Practice temperance by setting the boundary on anything that would be demeaning to you and your spouse, or would hold back any aspect of your love. Check out Holy Sex! for some great practical advice.
Avoid screen-time binges.
My husband and I have been watching S.H.I.E.L.D on Netflix. Every episode ends with a major cliff-hanger, a teaser, or a lead-in that has me begging for more. I always want to watch one more episode. But I know we need to get some sleep or we’ll regret it in the morning. So we turn off the TV and I pick up my tablet. I want to check Facebook one last time before I go to bed, but there’s this nasty little feature called infinite scroll. Five minutes turns into an hour later and I’m still awake. We all have something that sucks us in. What’s your poison?
- Try unplugging instead.
You don’t need to smash your TV or delete your Facebook account or anything. But make a plan to balance screen-time with screen free time. Set aside times to unplug from technology. Dinner time is sacred: no phones, no TV, no music. Just real live people and good old fashioned communication. One thing our family does from time to time (and we need to do again) is pick one day each week to have a screen-time fast. We chose Fridays: no screens; limited phones (text messages and phone calls in moderation); lots of play. Try it out!
Avoid impulse spending and ultra-frugality.
Guys, Amazon. The Walmart clearance aisle. Everything in Target. And free shipping! What’s not to love? Now, take a look around your house. How much of your accumulated stuff never sees the light of day? Never gets used? Is destined for the dumpster next time you move? Or maybe you’re the opposite… not a spendthrift, but the queen of frugal living. You won’t spend a single penny more than necessary. You refuse to part with your precious hard-earned money for any passing pleasure. Lighten up, crazy lady! (I’m talking to myself here…) Let go of your attachment to money.
- Do some budgeting and some charitable giving.
Plan how you want to spend your money, and stick to it. If you tend to go overboard with the spending, ask someone to help you be accountable for your purchases. A spouse, friend, or parent can help you decide whether you really need that new pair of boots, whether you “thirty-dollars-like-it” or whether you have enough shoes in your closet already. If you’re an overzealous penny-pincher, budget some money just for fun. And don’t feel guilty spending it on ice cream, a day at the waterpark with your kids, or that new shirt you absolutely adore.
Usually, I get started with honest concern: How’s your brother doing? And then it turns into blatant curiosity: He what? Eloped? Tell me more! Other times, innocent chit-chat turns into complaining and cutting people down. It’s so easy to get caught up in the popular opinion. It feels safer to band together with a common complaint than to back away from unhealthy conversation. But it really is that: unhealthy. It’s bad for our relationship with God, our relationship with our friends, and our pride. And it’s bad for others. It destroys their reputation and spreads private information. Have you ever left a conversation thinking: “If that’s what they say about her, I wonder what they say about me.” Even when it’s not about you, it cuts you down. And it hurts the one being slandered even more.
- Speak life instead.
Let go of vain curiosity and the temptation to gossip. It may bring a momentary high, the pleasure of fitting in, of letting off steam. But in the end everyone gets hurt. There are a few things you can do instead. If you’re bold and brave, interrupt the negative vibes with a compliment. Vanessa may chew in the most annoying way – “But she has such a generous heart: she’s always there for me when I need someone to talk to.” If you’re not so brave (like me) take baby steps. I don’t have the courage to contradict people, but I can easily change the subject. “Hey, did you see that hilarious video of the mom putting on makeup this morning? That’s how I feel every day!” If the conversation takes a turn for the worst, do your best to pray and turn it around. Make sure your words always give life and love, no matter how tempting it is to fit in with the gossip circle.
God gives us temperance to help us find balance. Who wants some more of that? *raises hand.* Tweet this.
Take the Challenge:
Are you ready to grow in temperance? Let’s get started! Here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare. Reread this post carefully and reflect on what it means in your life. Print out your materials and place them in convenient places in your home.
- Every morning, start the day with prayer (find it on your Nightstand Guide).
- Throughout the day, use your Fridge Guide to help integrate temperance into your life. Your Fridge guide has brief reminders, and some bonus extras (like an indulgenced prayer – woot!).
- Every evening, pray the nightly Examen (find it on your Nightstand Guide). This is a step-by-step review of your day, including praying for forgiveness, and resolving to do better tomorrow.
- Before confession (or weekly at least), prayerfully read the Examination of Conscience. Reflect, not only on your sins and failings, but also on how God has blessed you with growth in virtue!
Download Your Free Printables
This Virtue Challenge is going to change your life! I pray God gives each of you (and me too, I need this) the grace you need to grow in temperance and to become the saint He’s calling you to be.
Take the Temperance Virtue Challenge now! Grab some cardstock, print your printables, and get ready for a grace-filled, growth-filled month.
Created in conjunction with Momsters Raising Monsters.
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