Self-control is something people have differing opinions on. For some, self-control means abstinence, for others, moderation. Both concepts require self-control and a decent amount of resolve. Both have merits, especially depending on what you’re dealing with. I wouldn’t advocate a moderation-based perspective on heroin, for instance. For this post, ‘abstinence’ will refer to complete refusal to partake in a thing, rather than just sexual activity, as the word tends to be used nowadays.
We hear of people who ‘have one and can’t stop’. People who absolutely cannot stop the ball once it starts rolling. Alcoholics who completely fall off the wagon at as much prompting as a simple glass of wine at a wedding. These are the types who I use in discussion against abstaining. People who can’t handle moderation must abstain, but I have heard it said by fundamentalists that moderation is the ‘easy way out’. Surely resisting temptation even when you have the taste on your tongue is harder.
Moderation requires more work but it can be a healthier route, mentally, emotionallyand sometimes physically. To use alcohol as an example, those who abstain have no tolerance or preparation for any time they do slip up, and it happens. “Falling off the wagon”, the saying goes. Why not just climb down for a bit, enjoy stretching your legs, and get back on when you’re ready? He who can successfully moderate can have one, and say no to any more without it being a problem. This requires more strength, but would most likely be a healthier avenue.
The high-and-mighty, holier-than-thou, sanctimonious types can preach all they like about the virtue of abstaining, but often only replace one vice with another, or merely justify the occasional binge with a plea of ‘weakness’. They call objects of vice ‘poison’, and yes, some are poisonous in a very literal sense. They fear their vices and their nature, rather than respect and control them. If they sat down and faced their ‘demons’, they could very well come to term with their issues and not go ballistic at the mere smell of mouthwash. I could go on a rant about how these people are weak, but that’s a harsh generalisation and unfair to people who are recovering from their problems.
People who succumb to their dark side fall under its control and give ideas such as moderation and enjoyment a bad name. Control it, or it will control you. As the saying goes “if you do not master your rage, rage will be your master”. Replace rage with any addiction or vice or even personality flaw that you like. Respect and control is the name of the game. I’m not suggesting that you like it. Just don’t live in fear of a part of yourself, especially because you have it in you to bring it to heel. Your Self can be your greatest ally if you make it, but your Self can be your greatest enemy if you fail.
Abstaining is all fine if that suits you, but if you’re going to stay there, damn well have the courage to stay there. Else, learn to moderate. It may not be easy at first, but eventually you can become more rounded, stronger, less stressed and happier. Respect your dark side, don’t live in fear of it. Don’t succumb. Live with it and master it.