In the December issue of H&L (Health and Lifestyle) magazine, the article of pastor Richard Mendoza on abstemiousness piqued my interest. I must admit that the term is quite new to me, and I had to Google its meaning.
Abstemiousness is the virtue of being sparing or moderate in eating and drinking, being temperate in one’s diet. But this can actually extend to controlling one’s tendency to overindulge in anything, writes Mendoza.
This is relevant as we gear up for the holidays. The Christmas season is associated with overindulgence in food, alcohol, shopping, partying and a lot of supposedly “good things.”
“I believe abstemiousness is the antidote to overindulgence this holiday season,” says Mendoza. He qualifies that although “moderation in all things” seems to be a reasonable advice, this should apply only to what is good for us.
He limits the application of abstemiousness to what is generally good. We should not only be abstemious, but also totally avoid or abstain from harmful things.
He adds that abstemiousness addresses the over- and underindulgence problems. For example, constant overeating is bad, but undereating is also bad because it leads to malnutrition and malfunction of the organs.
Overwork leads to exhaustion or injury. Underwork leads to poor productivity. Over-rest leads to weakness and laziness. Under-rest causes accumulated stress, mental confusion and exhaustion.
We also need a balanced intake of air, water and sunlight—not too much and not too little.
He also advises moderation in other activities. “Too much reading, too much talking, too much thinking, too much entertainment, too much sports, too much television, too much texting, too much use of gadgets, materialism, fashion and social media—all of these things, if not properly regulated, can overtax the mental faculties and even lead to physical breakdown…”
Abstemiousness, says Mendoza, has a biblical origin and it is the principle on which the right to enjoy eternal life is based. He explains that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and initially had no disposition toward self-gratification.
Despite access to all the good things in the Garden of Eden, they practiced utmost self-control or temperance—until they were tempted by Satan and ate the forbidden fruit.
That single act of disregard for the principle of abstemiousness of our first parents caused a “change in their very natures,” says Mendoza.
Practicing abstemiousness constantly even in good things, and abstaining from bad things, can also enable us to make wise decisions in life. We live healthier lives and enjoy peace of mind.
In contrast, says Mendoza, giving in to selfish overindulgence could open the floodgate of intemperance, unhealthy lifestyle, immorality and eventual death.
In the era of commercialism, when overt and subtle messages abound, temperance can be a life-changing virtue, to maintain a lifestyle that is healthy and well-balanced in all aspects—physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
I agree with Mendoza that if we practice abstemiousness as a way of life, it can help address many of society’s physical, mental, moral, spiritual and socioeconomic problems.