“If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.”
The next installment to our series on Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues covers moderation. This particular virtue can be hotly contested depending on our personal opinions and needs. However, as Freemasons, we’re focusing on the most common interpretation of Brother Franklin’s proclamation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Epictetus was a Greek sage and philosopher who lived from 55 AD to 135 AD. He was born a slave and later banished from his home, but he still believed that excess (the antonym of moderation) soured the taste of success.
Case in point. Look to the news, and you’ll see a celebrity experiencing an unfortunate situation due to indulgence in excess, and the politician dragged before a court for excessive behavior. These are just two examples of what Epictetus alluded to when he stated that by overstepping the bounds of moderation we cause unhappiness.
All too often, we as human beings, get caught up in the rat race and seek out the bigger and better toy. We lust after the latest electronics, drool over the newest model of our favorite car, and throw ourselves before the succulence of multimedia entertainment in excess. And what does it do for us? Does it truly make us a happier people or does it limit us in our growth and happiness?
Excess in Society
America is a country built upon the foundation of hard work, dedication to family, morals, and values. As with all great nations and peoples who lounge in the lap of luxury, we’ve fallen prey to slovenly behavior, the disintegration of family, morals, and values; even the concept of the Great Architect of the Universe has become taboo in social circles. Why is this? One could argue that this is due to indulgence in excess.
Television and the Internet have replaced intelligent conversation, self-education, and brainstorming new ideas, philosophies, and theories. New toys have replaced charitable interests and community service. The desire to be a part of something—fraternity, church, community, club, etc.—has been replaced by the solitude of living online. Always seeking the next best thing has become a vampire to our happiness—even when we have “it all” we still seek more.
Moderation needs to comes into play here, brothers. I’ve found that the more things I have, the more money I’m spending on upkeep, and the more time I am forced to commit to these things. Indeed, property owns me rather than me owning the property. Am I happier with ownership? No. Not necessarily. Within a short time the next new phone model comes out, or I find myself frustrated after something breaks down, becomes lost, or is otherwise rendered useless to me. Where have I found my most significant level of happiness?
I have been able to see more success in serving others while living in moderation. That’s where I find my highest level of happiness: helping others. When I’m not wasting my time in front of video games, the television, or the Internet, I can be in service to others. When I’m not always seeking the next best toy, I can focus on donating time and money to charities. When I’m not stuffing my face full of food, there is more for those who are hungry. There are any number of “when’s” I could use to illustrate this point, but suffice it to say that I have found more happiness in moderation than in indulging excesses. In moderation there is peace. In moderation, there is comfort. In moderation, there is a presence of mind.
What Ben Means When He States, “Forebear Resenting Injuries So Much as You Think They Deserve.”
Practicing moderation is not solely the domain of acquisition and time management. Moderation is also a responsibility we have when dealing with others. When anyone engages in interaction with another human being, they are doing so with at least one expectation. That expectation is that they will engage with a civil and polite manner. When this doesn’t occur, human nature is to react with strong emotions: vengeance, hatred, anger, etc. Moderation comes into play by learning that these extreme emotions are not constructive, but are destructive instead. To indulge and entertain these emotions is to do more damage to yourself, your reputation, your family’s reputation, your organization’s reputation, your faith’s reputation… essentially everything you stand for than it is to the one who did you wrong, to begin with. Whereas, a moderate reaction to a distasteful event is more likely to be construed as gentlemanly, civil, polite, and the better in the encounter. In this case, moderation affords you a clear mind with which you can better assess the whole of the meeting and determine the proper and preferred outcome.
On the other side of the coin, if you do not practice moderation in your encounter of ill-tended behavior, then you will be thought of as a doormat, a pushover, and a weakling. While in such a category, you become the target of others who are less inclined to behave as gentlemen, and life becomes an unhappy circle of beatings.
It is through moderation that we find the balance we need in our lives to attain happiness. What are some other ways of practicing moderation, and how have they helped you find happiness and balance in your lives?