This episode is based on one of the workshops we run on Virtue and Temperance, and we’ll focus today on Sobriety.
What is sobriety?
We often think it’s only about not being drunk. Like we know we shouldn’t be dancing on the line, so, if we just keep dancing near the line (just not on it), then we’re practicing sobriety. Fact it isn’t so much more than that.
- Is more than not getting drunk, or having a problem with alcohol
- Is more than moderating the amount of alcohol or other substances
Sober-mindedness / Clear-mindedness = clarity of mind (serious, thoughtful, and responsible when called for) and sensible/rational.
What may contribute to a clouded mind
Physically – we could have an imbalance of rest, sleep and activity and nutrition. We may also be consuming substances that are not good for our bodies. This would include alcohol and drugs.
Emotionally – we may fill our minds and hearts with worry, stress, perfectionism.
Spiritually – we may have battles and struggles ranging from being spiritually lazy and complacent through to scrupulosity, which is not isolated but also fills our mind and heart.
So sobriety is so much more than just drinking too much — it is having our body, mind, and spirit in balance to remain clear-minded.
What happens when these things are out of balance
We become unable to make decisions that are in our best interest because we’re not even operating from a place of optimum, and if we’ve been like that for some time, even our idea of optimum is warped. This is when we begin to think with a defeatist mentality, or a ‘not good enough’ or ‘not worth it’ mentality. Which is where we see poor decision making – everything from getting behind the wheel under the influence, to saying unkind things when we’re stressed out, snapping when we’re tired and hungry, to making poor dating choices, and drastic career and vocation moves. All because we’ve allowed ourselves to become clouded, and forgotten the truth of who we are, and what we’re worth.
We also have seasons of being desolate – and in this space being sober minded can be a challenge – we can be thrown off when the usual consolations we receive from God, the way we feel peace and joy, and hear Him speak suddenly disappear and there is no emotional connection, and He feels distant, or we feel very distant from Him, or all we hear is silence. That can be very disorienting. A sober-minded spirit also means exercising a dose of prudence, by remaining temperate in a sober minded manner even when we don’t feel like it, or the motivation simply isn’t there. This is the time to be reminded of simple core truths, and allow that to become sign posts for making everyday decisions. This is not the time to make major adjustments and a sober minded state will help with that. Because sober mindedness is not an elimination of all that can be challenging, it’s a tempering of the impacts of challenges in the decisions we make.
We celebrated something so significant just recently that should wake us up from this clouded space and sober us up. The passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s the shake up we all needed to crack through our clouded minds to see that God found us entirely worth it! Even in a state of spiritual emptiness, this truth can help anchor us on reality even if we can’t feel the power of it.
Let that truth sober us up into making sobriety a priority in our lives.
Culture of alcoholism
What might that say about our culture as a nation in relation to sober mindedness and virtue?
It says we’re no longer interested in what truly satisfies us. It’s a sad reality that a country that is drunk, is unable to think soberly and a country that is unable to be sober minded is not able to truly love because an imbalanced person cannot see themselves for who they truly are, and are unable to be a gift of self to another, because they selves aren’t masters of themselves to be able to give self to another. As a culture, this means that we’re constantly buying into more and more substances either, physically, emotionally or spiritually to mask the last thing that left us dissatisfied. Constantly going over the boundary of what is healthy in the hopes of finding goodness. Goodness lives within the boundary, not outside of it.
How do we practice clear mindedness? How do we grow in the virtue of Temperance?
Habitual moderation. But it’s not moderation from allowing ourselves to go to far and then restraining. It’s the virtue that helps us to know where the boundary is and be uninterested in crossing it. It’s a virtue that helps us see that the fun, the joy and fulfillment isn’t in overstepping the boundary but is actually staying within. A simple example is overindulging in food. Gluttony. A temperate person knows how much is too much, and won’t look to go as close to the boundary as possible because a temperate person knows that will not feel good for them.So they don’t even entertain the thought of gluttony, they’re actually looking for the joy of fulfillment at the point of content not at the point of being full. Because it’s at the point of content that we’re most free and most joyful. That’s the impact of virtue, freeing us to be who we were made to be. Under the point of content leaves us hungry and looking for more. Overindulgence leaves us sick and unable to joy to the fullest degree. Virtue really does lie in the middle.
Practicing temperance in other ways of our lives, such as in mind and emotion requires clear-mindedness — e.g., when we meet someone we find attractive. A temperate person knows not to let their emotions and thoughts about that person go too far into the realm of fantasy, because that will only leave them feeling unsatisfied in the end. Instead, the temperate person knows the joy in finding the person they’re interacting with is attractive, is instead to stay in the present. To enjoy the present moment for what it is, and then let that be. This way they remain sober minded as they continue to live their lives that require a number of responsibilities, such as focusing on study, work, and family relationships and not be consumed by fantasy of the person they met. This will also help them weigh up whether the person they met is someone they would like to pursue, because their judgment has not been clouded by emotions and thoughts that have gone beyond the present.