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How Temperance helps us pray

“Everything is lawful for me; but not everything suits me” Saint Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians.

According to some experts, technology is not a neutral tool; behind the screen there are hundreds of people working to design applications that capture our attention.

It is important to be attentive to developing positive practices that help us with self-control. The Christian virtue of temperance is a fundamental tool for the modern world.

The 21st century is characterized by the intensive development of technology, which has colonized almost all areas. They have brought us great advantages: communication and interaction, promoting the quality of learning and skill development, increasing economic productivity in society, etc.

Many years ago, Benedict XVI pointed out that digital technologies were causing profound transformations in communication models and human relationships. These changes are even more highlighted among young people who have grown up in close contact with these new forms of communication and who, therefore, feel comfortable in the digital world.


The business landscape has also changed. The 5 largest multinationals in the world belong to the world of Technology and Communication. If before, large companies competed for dominance of the sea, oil or finance, now they fight for our attention. And the difference is noticeable.

Tristan Harris, a former Google developer, notes that in the past companies did not have armies of designers and engineers working every day alongside psychologists and sociologists who draw on the latest research not only in development and marketing matters but also neuroscience and behavioral psychology, to make their products more and more attractive, with the sole intention that we spend more time using them.

Technology that has been developed to make our lives easier can also make it more complicated. Behaviors such as the obsession with acquiring the latest technological innovation, replacing personal contacts with virtual communication or the need to be permanently connected to the Internet, have created great social alarm, partly aggravated by the lack of reference criteria on what is normal and what is not. Many of these behaviors have begun to be labeled as addictive, given their characteristics of generating dependency and subtracting freedom by restricting the breadth of interests, in addition to seriously interfering in daily life, at the family, school, social or health level. What is true in all this? What can be done?


One of the biggest health problems faced by Western countries is addiction. This term refers to a set of psychological disorders characterized by a compulsive need – which progressively invades all spheres of the individual’s life (family, society, relationships). social, work…) – and a lack of interest in alternative behaviors, experiences and pleasures that had previously been part of the life of the affected individual, all despite the negative consequences that consumption entails.

In recent decades, great advances have been made in the knowledge of the neurobiological bases of addiction, which has allowed us to completely change the conceptualization of this disorder.


In 1921, biologist Otto Loewi made one of the main discoveries in this area: neurotransmitters, for which years later he would receive the Nobel Prize. Until then, it was believed that communication between neurons occurred through electrical communication.

Loewi discovered that this concept was wrong, demonstrating that neurons communicate with each other through the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Since 1921 until now, more than 60 different types of neurotransmitters have been discovered.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter; that is, a chemical messenger produced mainly in our brain. This small molecule plays very important roles in daily performance. It acts when we feel pleasure, it is responsible for us seeking reward, it regulates attention and provides the necessary motivation to work on long-term goals.


Stanford biology professor, maintains that dopamine is actually the neurotransmitter of “the anticipation of pleasure.” The anticipation of a reward (pleasure) is what drives us towards what is known as goal-oriented tasks and which allows for behavioral psychology, or the reinforcement of certain behaviors through the promise of a reward. Dopamine is what regulates the motivation we feel to do something.

This is why those addicted to watching porn on the Internet or viewing photos on Instagram not only compromise their attention control, but also their willpower. Dopamine is what causes that addiction.

That is why the problem with habituating the dopamine system to the easy but constant or always available rewards of digital technology is that it makes other types of tasks that do not bring a close or immediate reward more difficult for us to turn into a habit. .

For example, learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, doing daily meditation is not only complicated because it is difficult to maintain attention; but also because these activities do not have very obvious short-term rewards.

Technology companies spend exorbitant budgets exploiting these characteristics of our brains. It is known that the big internet business is based on how long we stay somewhere, and that is why big companies like Facebook, Twitter and even Netflix compete for our attention, win at the expense of our time and manage to keep us constantly distracted. Today they no longer expect you to click on the next video or chapter of a series to start playing it, they don’t let you choose. They have studied how to keep us hooked, dependent. and they do it very well.


Giving free rein to one’s tastes is not a good life policy, we risk getting carried away by large companies that want us hooked on their content, or we risk falling into possible addictions. It is known that it is not typical of Christians to reject sensible reality. But, after original sin, the attitude of the Christian is that which Saint Paul also describes in the first letter to the Corinthians: “everything is lawful for me; but not everything suits me.”

The Christian virtue of temperance harmonizes the demands of spirit and matter, it moderates the appetite for sensible pleasures in accordance with the ultimate goal of man.

It is not repression, but it is the condition of the normal, truly human being. Let us try to do everything in measure, for that is temperance. Cardinal virtue, of ‘thistle’, hinge, hinge: firm point of support.

Temperance is one of the four cardinal virtues. The catechism says that it is a supernatural virtue that moderates the inclination to sensible pleasures, especially touch and taste, containing it within the limits of reason illuminated by faith. In other words, it consists of moderating the appetites and the excessive use of the senses, subjecting them to reason.


The best way to live temperance in the digital world is to set limits. Use the smartphone until a certain hour or not have some applications loaded, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Delimit “sanctuaries” or areas where electronic devices cannot be used, for example the dining room, bed, etc. They are ways of demanding ourselves so as not to get carried away by what we want most. Control so that the immediate rewards center does not work at will, but rather we guide things to work with purpose. This self-control will be reflected in our reaction to the attacks of life and in the use and possession of things with calm and serenity. It leads us to do without the unnecessary.

Thus, through temperance we will remain firm and serene. Everything that is within limits calms down and transmits security. If the soul of man is preserved within certain limits, it acquires the security of knowing what it can and cannot do and what place truly belongs to it.


Acquiring positive habits requires personal effort and the application of common sense. It is advisable to put effort into your own fight, but above all it pays to help the little ones: be careful with children. We must prevent them from being exposed to screens too soon. And not only because they do not have the self-control that, in principle, we adults enjoy, but also because there are more and more opportunities that are presented to them to acquire digital addictions. For example, according to this year’s reports, video game consoles are the ones that have grown the most as internet browsers during 2017. And also one of the favorite devices to access pornography (see graphs).

Malcriar is, as the word indicates, raising badly. It is not limiting desires, it is giving the impression to a being from childhood that everything is allowed and nothing is obligated. The person who grows in this disorder neither becomes stronger nor acquires the experience of his own limits.


On the contrary, temperance is lordship, as Saint Josemaría Scribe of Balaguer, one of the great saints of the modern world, said and continued: “Not everything we experience in the body and soul has to be resolved freely. Not everything that can be done should be done. Some do not want to deny anything to their stomach, their eyes, their hands; They refuse to listen to anyone who advises living a clean life. Temperance does not imply limitation but greatness, since it raises the soul to be sober, modest, and understanding: it provides it with a natural control that is always attractive, because the lordship of intelligence is noticeable in one’s behavior. There is much more deprivation in intemperance, in which man abdicates himself.”

Technology is wonderful, if we use it in an orderly way it can help us enhance our communication and ways of working in unexpected ways.

It is advisable to be attentive to be the ones who dominate it and not let it dominate us. It is a personal challenge to know how to set the limits that are best for us, and to help do the same with those who most need our protection.

Temperance is one of the four cardinal virtues. (

P. Juan Carlos Vásconez

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