Are you among the many who make New Year’s Resolutions, only to struggle? If so, you are in good company. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin only had a few years’ formal education that ended when he was ten, but he embarked on a lifetime of self-directed study and growth. At age 20, he began working on a list of 13 virtues he hoped to continually build in himself to become the best version of himself possible.
Knowing that good intentions without a plan and follow-through will peter out, Franklin made a chart of the 13 virtues and the days of the week so he could put a “dot” in each cell and mark his progress. Each week, he would focus on a incorporating a new ideal in his life. Plus, since each year has 52 weeks, he would go through the 13-week exercise four times annually. (You can view and download the chart here.)
One definition of “temperance” is “abstinence.” That is, one completely refrains from some behavior. However, another definition is “moderation” or “self-restraint.” In other words, temperance tells us to avoid extremes and find the “sweet spot” or what the ancients called “the golden mean.”
With food, one extreme is starvation while the other is obesity. Temperance tells us to eat what we need to maintain health and energy, but not to excess. As Franklin put it, “Eat not to dullness.” Nowhere does the Bible say “Thou shalt not drink alcohol,” but Ephesians 5:18 warns “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (NLT)
Imagine how many health problems, drunk driving, violence, heart-break and much more we could avoid if we practiced temperance day in and day out.
In this first week of the New Year, the word for you is “Practice Temperance.”