Temperance. A virtue that has shaped humanity all the way from Ancient Greek philosophy through Christianity up to our modern 21st century way of thinking. Interestingly, in Ancient Greece, there were two concepts of temperance and both of them are inherently different from each other. The term enkrateia literally translates to “in power” and refers to the power we have over ourselves, our egos, our passions and our drives. When we say temperance and refer to enkrateia, we talk about self-control and self-discipline. Unfortunately, it can be tiresome to constantly repress one’s passions, feelings or instincts. Sometimes, we just want to eat that cake and buy those shoes.
However, temperance does by no means have to exhaust us. Its second translation, sophrosyne, does not forbid us to enjoy small pleasures or force us to suppress our desires continuously. Instead, sophrosyne, a term coined by Plato and used further by Aristotle, understands temperance as an ideal between two extremes. It represents a healthy state of mind that is not hedonistic, self-indulgent or uncontrollable, but not callous or emotionless either. In fact, the concept of sophrosyne acknowledges human pleasures whilst encouraging us to be sensible, self-aware and mindful about them. Essentially, it calls on us to do everything in moderation and nothing in excess. Or, as the 21st century human would say: balance is key.