In excited times, in which screams and overtones cancel any possibility of true conversation, in which anger – more or less motivated – is a social pass-partout, in which aggression reigns, moderation is another virtue in free fall.
For Catholics, this ability to self-control is included among cardinal virtues, such as temperance. In etymology, these two words say the same thing: the ability to govern, regulate, contain one’s impulses within due limits. The ability to use prudence and measure, to act cautiously and sensibly, sense of time, and context.
Moderation is not cowardice, it is not weakness, it is not hypocrisy, it is not passive enslavement.
Quite the contrary. It requires a subtle and ready intelligence, in the sense of intuition and deep understanding, not only of oneself and one’s reactions, but above all of the emotional context in which one is involved. It is this emotional intelligence – historically more cultivated in women, and now being lost – that allows us to grasp an entire situation with lightning intuition, feel its vulnerabilities, pitfalls, but also the strengths, when we keep calm inner and clarity necessary to read thoroughly the behavior of others, and behave accordingly. It is self-control ability, educated over the years. That is not repression, mind you, but the ability to channel our reasons in a tight way, arguing in a concisely effective way. Avoiding blatant gestures, free insults, offensive phrases that one can regret. Therefore, avoiding to frustrate the importance and usefulness of one’s interpersonal relationships.
A person capable of moderation becomes the strong point of any relationship, in family life, in the work environment, between friends, in any context.
Instead, the progression, the exponential growth of aggression, which happens when everyone gets carried away by impulsivity, only leads to faster and deeper lacerations. If everyone cultivated moderation, the world would be better. Actually, it depends on the education, focused on improving self-control.
The “repressive” use that has been made of this type of education has led to a sort of putting these qualities on the index. Which, if chosen and cultivated by personal conviction, rather than by obligation or social censure, can prove to be maieutic to express the best of oneself, even in social and professional life.
Unfortunately, indulging impulsiveness, saying everything that passes through the mind without the slightest filter and control, is today considered a sign of freedom, spontaneity, passion, an inescapable right. Today there is a tendency to believe, evidently, even in talk shows or even in institutional contexts, that those who raise their voices end up being right, those who scream have more chances to be heard and impose themselves in a discussion or a debate. A conquest, even, for women. In reality, in both sexes, uncontrolled, untempered, unmodulated impulsiveness tends to be a bondage: it makes us succubus of our more humoral, more “automatic” part, more dominated by pre-rational archaic reflexes. In other words, it expresses a more rapid and violent stimulus-response reaction, the less one is trained in moderation.
Does it make sense to rediscover this ancient virtue? Yes, if every person perceives this moderation training as a higher form of freedom: which allows us to choose, from time to time, when what and how to say, and when to be silent, when to act and when to wait, when to move the effects and when to lighten them, actually increasing our ability to exist more incisively, softly and constructively together, in the world around us.