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Posted January 28, 2013

Is It Virtuous to Feel Good About Ourselves?

Eugene Hemrick

Many of us today put ourselves through pain and expense in order to keep fit. We are on strict diets and into hard workouts. We even employ psychological help to get in shape.

Often our efforts produce only short-term results. Our motivation and discipline seem to be missing an important ingredient needed for more permanence.

To obtain more lasting results, I have a suggestion. Take seriously the virtue of "temperance" in the deepest sense of the word!

Ironically, some think temperance is primarily concerned with eating and drinking. This is to miss its ultimate meaning, which has little to do with limiting quantities of food.

Nor does it predominantly aim at moderation, which has the connotation of restriction, curtailment, curbing, bridling or repressing. These are negative in tone and imply something is bad and must be repressed.

Temperance is positive in that it implores us to constantly search for the precious in our life. Essentially it is concerned with serenity -- a sense of inner order, a sense of being in union with oneself. It aims at reducing whatever is inordinate in our life that is hindering its need for good order.

All of us at one time or other have gone to bed feeling totally at peace with ourselves. This peace reflects the fact that we did something in accord with that inner voice we call a conscience. We have put a refreshing order in our life.

Temperance holds this kind of inner peace precious. More than this, it gives us a sense of oneness with self.

To practice it we need to ask ourselves, Do we have an inner feeling of correctiveness, order and goodness? If we are hesitant temperance prods us to ask what might be missing and how best we might improve the situation.

It also causes us to re-examine whether we are assertive enough to follow through on our findings.

Some might argue that too much introspection makes people self-centered -- that it is almost as if we were trying to create a psychological paradise on earth by pursuing good feelings about ourselves.

But temperance is far from turning in on oneself. Rather, it is a search for the goodness, order and unity God desires in us. We are meant for an orderly life!

It is based on the belief that we have an inherent goodness God wants us to seek and to defend. Philosopher Josef Pieper would call it "selfless self-preservation of a God-given right."

When temperance is studied further, we see that the search for goodness it entails reaches out toward others. People who feel good and in order about themselves are usually better disposed toward others. For example, keeping in shape is one way we do something good about our self. This spills over into being more patient, spirited and, most of all, kind toward others. It raises our disposition, making us well disposed.

Daily we experience technological advances that are reducing the toil of life. In spite of this progress there always seems to be something missing.

Could it be temperance -- the link to total peace which can only be found by pursuing God's goodness and order within ourselves?