The Cardinal Virtue of Temperance helps a man enjoy licit pleasures in the world in a balanced way and overcome his passions and impulses which result in becoming enslaved by the vice of Intemperance. Human Temperance can be supernaturally infused by the Holy Spirit through the Gift of the Fear of the Lord. To grow in Temperance, a man needs to build several habits which allow him to gain the self-mastery to moderate his impulses and urges.
The Virtue of Temperance
“Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate man directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion…” (CCC 1809). The man who builds the virtue of Temperance embraces moderation, sobriety, discretion and self-control, even periodic abstinence over the pleasures of the senses, prudently protecting himself from falling into sin due to excesses of consumption of various licit pleasures. The Temperate man experiences the peacefulness and joy of being truly free of raging and persistent passions over which he battles to gain mastery.
The Vice of Intemperance
In opposition to Temperance is the vice of Intemperance, an unmanly vice by which a man refuses to moderate his own impulses, losing control or not caring to stop in the consumption of pleasure, or to control his emotions and behaviors towards others. Intemperance spans many of the 7 Deadly Sins, including pride, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth, all of which result from a man’s failure to use his reason and will to keep his urges in check. The Intemperate man experiences guilt and shame and the pain of being enslaved and powerlessness over unseemly pleasures, his impulses towards others, and his own lethargy and inaction.
The Gift of the Fear of the Lord
To help a man grow in Temperance, the Holy Spirit gives a receptive man the Gift of the Fear of the Lord which builds upon a man’s just fear of punishment for sin and elevates it so that a man has such awe and gratitude for God’s bountiful gifts that he fears to disappoint and become separated from God. A man’s holy fear of being separated from God causes him to have guilt, shame, and sorrow and to grow to hate his vice of Intemperance and gives him newfound strength to battle against his sinful impulses and vices.
The parts of Temperance
Temperance has several parts, or sub-virtues, each of which are opposed by various vices:
Humility is the good habit of a man who recognizes his own smallness compared to God and the great gifts God has given others, causing him to be truly awed and grateful for God’s work and not unjustly taking credit for the blessings God has given him. The man who embraces the virtue of Humility genuinely sees himself as lowly and is careful in the imposition of his will upon others and is deferential and respectful; the Humble do not seek inordinate attention through their words and acts.
Opposing Humility is the vice of Pride, a deadly sin by which a man falsely perceives himself as more than he is, fails to be grateful to God, is obsessed with self-esteem, takes credit where credit is not due, is disrespectful or disregards the opinions of others, seeks attention and applause, dresses to stand out, is vain, immodest, boastful and self-promoting; for many, pride has become a false virtue in the modern world and a way to publicly rebel against the commandments of God, to seek self-esteem and to gain acceptance of the culture.
Meekness is the good habit of a man who has the self-mastery to cooly and rationally observe the injustice of others with a patient confidence in God’s will and often confidently chooses to respond with moderation and clemency to convert the hearts of sinners, instead of responding with anger. A man who is justly Meek does have appropriate anger against unrighteousness, but moderates his anger so as to use it to serve God and others rather than for blind retribution or his own satisfaction.
The opposing vice of Wrath/Unrighteous Anger is a deadly sin in which a man is routinely overcome with excessive anger and is habitually angry about injustice, often out of proportion to the injustice, leading him to explode with sinful words, emotions, and even evil acts of violence. Often men who are sinfully wrathful lack the will to actually seek to address an injustice, cowardly preferring to unfruitfully stew in their simmering wrath which can grow into deep hatred.
Abstinence/Sobriety (sometimes generally called Temperance) is the good habit of a man who has the self-restraint to moderate the amount and type of food/drink he consumes so as to maintain his health to have the longevity and vigor to serve God to the best of his ability. The man of Temperance eats to live, not live to eat.
The opposing vices of Gluttony and Drunkenness are the bad habits of a man who lacks desire and self-control to moderate his consumption of food/drink (or drugs, tobacco, etc.) and habitually eats or consumes unhealthy things to excess, leading to the destruction of health due to obesity, disease and/or mental impairment. The Glutton is often finicky and pathetic in his unseemly desire for specific tastes and the attention, time and money he spends in pursuit of gourmet/exotic foods and drink to please his mouth.
Chastity is the good habit of a man who gains self-mastery of his sexual impulses so he may conform his sexual thoughts and acts to the beautiful, holy and natural gift of conjugal love within the vocation of married life, a love that is unitive and open to the conception of children. Those who are not married are called to inward and outward purity, to preserve purity for the sake of God and to abstain from all sexual activity outside of marriage, being modest in word and dress.
Opposing Chastity, is the vice of Lust by which a man has a disordered desire for sexual pleasure, leading him blindly and rashly engage in various sexual sins including masturbation, viewing of pornography, contraception, fornication, adultery, homosexual acts and other abhorrent sexual acts, and acts of immodesty (lewdness, sexually provocative clothing) which seek to arouse sexual lust in others.
Diligence is the good habit of a man who puts his best efforts into cultivating and gratefully, joyfully, and energetically using his God-given talents in the service of God and neighbor in every thought, word and deed, balancing the just use of himself for God, his family and his work. The Diligent man maintains order in caring for his spiritual and physical health, hygiene and possessions and is an excellent steward of all the treasures God has granted him.
Opposing Diligence is the deadly vice of Sloth by which a man is ungrateful, sorrowful and lazy in fulfilling his duties to God, family, neighbor and country, caring mostly for his own disordered pleasure. The Slothful man lives a disordered and chaotic life, neglecting or abusing his spiritual life, physical health and hygiene, and is a wastrel who squanders the gifts which God has given him dominion over.
Self-control is the good habit of a man who has mastered and controls his desires, impulses, emotions, and behaviors and uses reason and discipline to put holy choices into orderly practice so as to achieve some good outcome. The man with Self-Control is in command of his thoughts, impulses and emotions and uses both his reason and his will to consistently take right action to meet his goals.
Opposing Self-Control is the vice of Impulsiveness by which a man fails to regulate his emotions, desires and reactions to the world, and is ruled by his current whims and emotions, often causing himself and others suffering as the consequences of his flippant reactions bear bad fruit.
Studiousness is the good habit of a man who uses his God-given intellect and reason for the purpose of accumulating knowledge in service of God and the good of others. The Studious man pursues knowledge which is useful and not corrupting, in moderation and in proportion to his vocation and abilities.
Opposing Studiousness, a man embraces the opposing vice of Curiosity by which a man seeks information, images or sounds from corrupt sources which oppose God through the promotion of immoral or demonic material and/or excessively seeks intellectual stimulation in the pursuit of the lewd, morbid, trivial or frivolous; today, the vice of Curiosity is rampant because evil and addicting media is instantly available.