When Moderation Fails…

“Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation”

     -Saint Augustine

Apparently this is the week to post my thoughts about saint quotes on Young And Catholic. Tuesday it was Saint Francis.  Today it’s Augustine.  (What can I say? I guess writer’s block is more easily conquered when a saint puts the first words on the page).

Just to clarify: a lot of people hear “abstinence” and immediately think of it pertaining to sex.  In case you didn’t already figure it out, the word is being used in a broader sense here.  Like if you struggle with, say, wasting time on Facebook, it’s easier to just throw the computer out the window and be done with it than it is to walk by it without checking the last hour’s status updates.  That’s abstinence vs. moderation.

Personally, I’ve always sort of heard in this quote something like a challenge.  As in: abstinence is taking the easy way out, so you should shoot for moderation.  It means you’re holier.

Here’s the thing though: sometimes we really do just need to throw the computer out the window (and that may not be as metaphorical as you think it is).  Returning to the Facebook analogy, how many of us deactivate our accounts around finals time while we’re in school?  Why do we do that?  Because we know we can’t handle it in moderation.  We need to remove the temptation of Facebook so that we can focus on our studies.

Why do we not approach our sin in the same way?  Why do we place ourselves again and again in the same occasions of sin, knowing full well what happened the last time?  It’s not making us holier trying to “stand strong” in the face of our sin when we just end up falling again and again.  We need to face facts.  We’re not that strong.  We need God’s grace, yes.  But we also need to use the reason He gave us and learn our limits.

If moderation isn’t working for you, try abstinence.  Be strong enough to do whatever it takes to avoid sin.

In conclusion, my lesson learned for this week: I need to spend a lot more time thinking about the quotes I read from the saints.  They’re much smarter than I am :)