Extreme Moderation and How to Avoid It

One of my good friends had a birthday this week. The following day on her Facebook status, she mentioned that there were so many baked goods laying around the house from the celebration, and that she was very tempted to have many of them. Her status ended with, “Moderation!”

I responded by saying that moderation was relative, and that if she considered the span of her entire life on Earth, and how the vast majority of that time she would not be eating cake, she could make the argument that having several today would not counteract her desire to be moderate.

This response received several “likes” from people, including the birthday girl herself. (Whether or not she actually had more of the baked goods that day, I don’t know. I didn’t ask.)

My response was a joke, but only partially. Because I have come to determine a very interesting, and perhaps mind-bending irony; everything should be pursued in moderation, including moderation itself.

What the hell am I talking about? It’s not quite as bizarre as it sounds.

The entire point of adopting a moderate lifestyle, whether it be the “Nothing in Excess” model of the ancient Greeks, or The Middle Way of the Buddhists, is to avoid extremes. In thought, word, and deed.

But suppose one becomes ultra-committed to moderation? So preoccupied with the idea of falling right in the middle of every spectrum, that they obsess over it? Every drink they grab, every party they attend, every item they purchase, every lover they take, their first thought is, “is this extreme?” They are in a constant state of examining every thing they say, think, do, or own, to make sure it does not fall into any of the extremes of life. And should they feel tempted to, or heaven forbid actually engage in one of the extremes? Well, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but a good second place is how obsessive moderates treat themselves when they go off the wagon of something.

Doesn’t all of that sound a bit, well, extreme?

So, as crazy as it sounds, we have to moderate our moderation, just as much as we moderate everything else.

If we moderate our alcohol intake, we don’t get drunk and puke every time it is served. If we moderate our eating habits, we do not eat only kale 24/7. And if we moderate our moderation, what does that mean? It means that moderation is a standard we apply over the course of an entire lifetime, and not to every moment of every day.

To be “middle of the road moderates”, we need to splurge. Sometimes. Break our diets. Get a little tipsy. Laugh too loud at the restaurant. By letting ourselves be somewhat extreme in any given circumstance, we maintain the value of moderation as a way of life in general.

Maintaining the balance is still a tricky endeavor for us. Both because it can be tempting to just say “to hell with it” and go nuts, but also because the middle of any spectrum isn’t often easy to identify. But we get a step closer to clarity on such things, when we take a step away and don’t crucify ourselves for our innocent moments of extremity.

Do you allow yourself to be extreme sometimes?

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1 Comment

  1. This argument is based entirely on the premise that she will not be eating cake for the vast majority of her life. I know the Birthday Girl & therefore know this is not remotely true. Aside from the faulty logic…good post. 🙂 Moderation never works for me…I'm more of an all or nothing girl, but envy those who can pull it off. I tend to live by the “I could be dead tomorrow” philosophy. (which makes my daughter crazy LOL) Those who tend to live in the moment I think tend to be less moderate by nature.

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