There Is Maturity in Moderation

“I’ll just have one,” I reasoned, as I reached for the mini chocolates. But it disappeared so quickly and felt so satisfying, I took another. And another. 

Proverbs aptly describes how I felt after my indulgence. “You have found honey—eat only what is sufficient for you, lest you become stuffed with it and vomit it up” (Proverbs 25:16). Well, that might be an exaggeration, but you get the point. Why can’t I stop with one?

The alternative seems to be to deny myself totally, to abstain completely. Perhaps it’s better to not have any sweets at all.

That works for me at home. I don’t regularly keep sweets lying around. But soon I’ll visit my in-laws where jars of chocolate covered peanuts and gummies sit lined up on the kitchen counter winking at me and daring me to dig in. “Just don’t start,” I tell myself. But then, sometimes total denial simply stimulates greater desire.

Let me stop here and explain that these thoughts aren’t for those who face addictions or health risks where abstinence is necessary for continued well-being and safety. And I recognize that sugar stimulates the brain in fascinating ways so that science and biology also play a part. There’s a legitimate time and place for abstinence and seeking professional care when assistance is needed.

But for me, in this case I believe moderation is key. My focus is on the daily habits we form and our tendency to go to extremes rather than do the hard work of moderation. For I argue that moderation can be just as challenging as going without. In fact, St. Augustine said, “To many, total abstinence is easier that perfect moderation.”

I realize that eating a few too many chocolates isn’t a big issue. But my struggle with sweets mirrors lack of moderation in other areas of my life. In a world of excess, we are programed to go to extremes. All or nothing. Black or white. It’s not worth doing if not done perfectly. Complete the project or don’t start it. Either it’s right or it’s wrong.

I wonder if, for me at this stage of my life, abstinence is actually immature. Consider children. They can’t stop at one candy. They beg to read the book over and over. “Again,” they repeatedly request. As adults, we put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11) and learn to say no, to ourselves, and to others. We self-regulate. We practice self-control. We learn balance. In sum, moderation.

For this I need the help of the Holy Spirit since one of his fruits is self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). The original Greek meaning—”to master one’s desires and passions”—explains how to do this. Other scriptures round out the idea:

  • For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • “All things are lawful for me” – but not everything is beneficial. “All things are lawful for me” – but I will not be controlled by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
  • Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. (1 Corinthians 9:25)

I want to learn moderation, to enjoy one chocolate without taking ten. To control what I consume rather than let it master me. But I also desire to avoid extremes in other areas. I want to see nuance in opinions, actions, reasons, and experiences. To accept that putting 80% of my effort (rather than 100%) into a project is sometimes good enough. To try and fail rather than not try at all. To remain in the center of tension.

And while I moderate myself, I’m so grateful God gives me himself in abundance and overflows with love and grace.

  • See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1 NIV emphasis mine)
  • In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight. (Ephesians 1:7–8 emphasis mine)

In what areas of your life do you need moderation? Abstinence? Abundance?

What steps can you take to exercise self-control?

Eva has been teaching and mentoring women for over thirty-five years. Her experience as a missionary kid in Papua New Guinea, cross-cultural worker in Indonesia, women’s ministry director, and Bible College adjunct professor adds a global dimension to her study of Scripture and the stories she tells. Through her blog, Pondered Treasures, and her book, Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth, Eva invites readers to slow down, reflect, and practically apply God’s word to life. Currently she and her husband live in Richardson, Texas and promote the well-being of global workers in a church planting mission agency. A graduate of Baylor University, she also has a Master of Christian Education from Columbia International University in Columbia, S.C. Crafting (specifically macramé) and spending time with her two sons and a daughter-in-law rejuvenates her soul.

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