Intemperance, Restraint, and Addiction


Another addendum/gloss on the writings of Tom over at Disputations. In this case he wrote about intemperance, it's remedy--restraint, and childishness. And all that is there seems reasonable to me.

What is not mentioned there is really the crux of the issue. When we inure ourselves to any sin, we become progressively more insensitive to its effects and progressively more possessed by the sin. When we have practiced intemperance long enough, it becomes addiction. This is almost a spiritual law--perhaps it is a spiritual law, but I don't know enough in the realm of this subject to rightly say.

What I do know is that restraint nearly always fails when addiction, particularly physical addiction is at the core of a problem. How many people have you known who have tried to stop smoking? How many times did they try? I know of two offhand who stopped on the first try; however, they are exceptions to the rule. Most people try and try and try and try and try and end up trying the tempers and perserverance of all of those around us.

Restraint works when the sin is young. It may even work when the sin has become habitual--but if the nature of the intemperance is such that it become an addiction, whatever restraint we bring to bear will be insufficient to the cause. In fact, that is true of the other stages as well--and I know that this reasoning underlies all that St. Thomas and probably most of what Tom writes about at Disputations--that is to say, without grace we cannot prevail against sin by our own wills. Our wills must be engaged--that is, we must desire to oppose the sin even if we are too weak to so. We must also seek the grace to oppose the sin. Without grace we can do nothing.

But what happens when the sin proceeds to addiciton--either psychological or physical? How often does that happen, you ask? Too frequently. Look at our society and see people who are caught up in addiciton to sex, violence, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, shopping, sports, and just about every other acitivity or substance you can imagine. There are people who make a fetish of buying things, those who raise eating to nearly exalted heights, those who drink to excess, and those who cannot seem to occupy themselves with one, espoused bed-partner.

Childishness is not merely childishness, unfortunately. It is deadly and deadening. Once we have succumbed on one or another of these things, we are progressively deadened to the metastatic nature of sin. Like cancer, once it's in it tends to spread. We may start with intemperance and proceed to wrath (particularly against those who stand in the way of supplying our present need) and other deadly sins.

Restraint is the answer to intemperance, but it is an insufficient answer on its own. And when intemperance progresses to addiction, "Just say no," simply doesn't work in most cases. We can last a while on our own with grace, but we must seek out the companionship of those who know the spiritual realm and who can better help us seek the grace required to break the back of our addictions. Jesus alone can be our help, but we can find Him in the people of faith around us.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 6, 2005 10:04 AM.

Consequentialism and Why I Don't Engage in Formal Apologetics was the previous entry in this blog.

Consequentialism in Historical Interpretation is the next entry in this blog.

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