Fighting Gluttony: How to Acquire Temperance

As recorded by J.D. Bentley February 20th, 2018
Fighting Gluttony: How to Acquire Temperance

In his Summa Theologiae, Saint Thomas Aquinas defines the sin of Gluttony as one which denotes not just any desire for eating or drinking, but an inordinate desire, an inordinate concupiscence.

Gluttony is an obsession with bodily indulgence, which is principally related to food and drink. If we are deeply entrenched in the sin of Gluttony, it engenders a love for pleasure that becomes a foundation on which the sins of lust and greed take hold.

Pope Saint Gregory I and Saint Thomas Aquinas both divided the sin of Gluttony into five different species or expressions. We need to be aware of each in order to know whether or not we’ve fallen into the sin of Gluttony, and if so, to what extent. These expressions are:

Nimis (Too Much)

Nimis is what Aquinas in his Summa calls the gluttony of excess. This is the type of gluttony most of us think of when we talk about gluttony. It is the eating of food in excessive quantity.

Studiose (Too Elaborate)

Studiose is the form of gluttony which has us eating food that is excessive in quality, which is too daintily or elaborately prepared. It is the seeking of delicacies in order to satisfy what Pope Saint Gregory I called "the vile sense of taste."

Laute (Too Expensive)

Laute is the type of gluttony that has us eating food that is far too luxurious, exotic or costly.

Praepropere (Too Soon)

Praepropere is a gluttony of time. It means eating too soon or otherwise eating at an inappropriate time. Constant snacking falls into this category.

Ardenter (Too Eager)

Ardenter is the gluttony of eagerness. We eat or drink greedily. It is possible to eat food that is not too luxurious, or too much, or too soon, or too elaborate, and still be committing the sin of gluttony because of Ardenter.

Of the five types, Ardenter is the worst, says Pope Saint Gregory, because it is the type of gluttony which most clearly and directly illustrates our attachment to the sin.

What Gluttony Does To Us

In America where there’s such a cheap supply of nearly anything we could want, gluttony is the easiest sin to fall into, especially because hardly any attention is paid to it at all.

Pope Saint Gregory I (an excellent resource on the topic, as you might have noticed) says of gluttony:

"Unless we first tame the enemy dwelling within us, namely our gluttonous appetite, we have not even stood up to engage in the spiritual combat."

The way gluttony damages us most is by incapacitating us. It is an injury to bodily health and mental health. It is gluttony which eventually keeps us from discharging our duties, from following through on our responsibilities, by doing what we ought to be doing.

The love of bodily pleasure is a distraction from the difficult, strenuous, often boring work that actually helps us achieve the goals we’ve set out to achieve.

The Two Ways of Overcoming Gluttony

There are two primary ways to cultivate gluttony’s antidote and its corresponding virtue, Temperance or Moderation.

  • Practicing Moderation in all things. Experiencing pleasure from things, especially eating and drinking, is a natural response, but we should not overindulge in anything, whether that thing is pizza, reading novels, or playing video games. Anything that becomes a distraction, especially a comfortable distraction, is suspect and should be cut back on gradually. Each time we say no to another of something (another slice of pie, another hour on the internet, etc) we are building up the virtue of Temperance within ourselves.

  • Fasting from food, drink, or any other obstacles that stand between us and victory. Fasting is the abstinence from food especially, but also the abstinence from anything which hinders us. You set out, for a particular time, to abstain completely from that food or that activity. For example, abstaining from meat on Fridays. Or abstaining from second cups of coffee. Or, if you find something like social media leading you into sin/distraction/comfort/despondency, staying off social media for a month. By completely cutting off our dependence on something for a certain time, we reduce its overall hold on us. We are able to escape its magnetism and to eventually escape the sinful need of overindulging in bodily pleasures.

It should also be said that when you are practicing moderation or fasting, don’t make a show of it. Don’t let anyone know if you can help it. The goal is not to look holy and accomplished, but to actually develop Temperance.

The more we are able to give up, however slowly, the more virtuous we will be.

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More from "The Seven Deadly Sins" series: