Written by Jim Renke — Shared with Permission

The Danger of Moderation

I asked the Doctor, “If this diet is what will save people, why don’t doctors tell them this?” His answer, “Because people won’t do it.”

Moderation Kills

Merriam Webster defines “moderate” as “observing reasonable limits.” This sounds good, unless it’s a bad thing you’re trying to moderate.

It was 5 days after an emergency by-pass surgery that the nutritionist came into my room to teach me how to eat now that I had extra plumbing around my heart. I remember she said, “You can have a hamburger and fries. Just eat a ‘happy meal.’” I know she was trying to get me to change things, to change anything. She said, “everything is okay, in m-o-d-e-r-a-t-i-o-n.”

I bought her moderation speech. It made me feel better. I didn’t have to give up all the things I’d become addicted to. I had an out. I lived her moderation plan with rigorous discipline. And, I still needed 4 stents after sticking to her plan. Why? Because what kills you a little will eventually kill you a lot.

Wait! Wait! Wait!

This article isn’t about food. That’s just the avenue through which I’ve learned a bit about change. This article is about what’s keeping us from radical, life-transforming change. It’s about getting unstuck in an area of our life where we’ve thought change was impossible.

What they’re really telling you.

Like the doctor who told me why they don’t tell us the best way for health, there is a hidden message in the moderation speech. And it keeps people from changing the things they need to change. Let me tell you what the moderation speech is really telling you.

  1. We know you don’t have the power to change what really should be changed, so we’ll give you an out.
  2. We know you won’t make the right decision or follow-through, no matter how powerful the information and how crucial the decision.
  3. We know you are a slave to the things that are destroying your life, so go ahead, do it just a little.
  4. We are sure you don’t have the courage to go against what you’ve been trained to do all your life.

Moderation is decision-avoidance.

To say we’ll allow ourselves something we should avoid is like telling that 5-year-old kid within, “go ahead, we’ll let it go this time.” When we’ve done that, we’ve given up control. Either make the decision to eat it, or not. Watch it, or don’t. Exercise, or don’t. But don’t just “allow yourself.” That’s a recipe for a life that is out of control.

Most of us have an area of our lives where the hopes and promises of moderation are destroying us. We refuse to make a decision to get rid of it and say, “I don’t do that anymore.” “That’s not in my life.”

Moderation is cheating and cheating is cheating.

When we know what we should stay away from and we choose moderation, we are cheating. We know cheating is not a good thing unless we get away with it, right? The very language of “cheating” tells us it’s something we should stay away from. I love these diets that have “cheat” days built into them. If you have a diet that allows a donut day, then call it “donut day,” or better, “fried fat day.”

The whole language of cheating seems to make us feel like we’re getting away with something. That’s not helpful. It reinforces the idea that we can do things without consequence. Cheating is going back on a decision. We are asking for a reprieve from our commitments. I hope my wife never decides to have a cheat day.

Moderation is what others want you to do for them.

I’m fairly convinced that people want us to moderate our commitments and behavior because they want to keep doing what they’re doing without feeling guilty.

If you’re convinced, then live your conviction. Let others deal with their convictions, or lack thereof. We don’t need to judge them, nor do we need to moderate our ways for their comfort.
This can be a tough one. I’ve had a lot of people say, “one cheeseburger won’t hurt.” Yes, it will. It may not cause a heart attack, but it would lessen my resolve. It would damage my commitment to my family, myself and God. I’m sorry, I can’t do that to make someone feel better.

Arguments for moderation (and my replies).

  1. Moderation keeps us from going to extremes. Most of us are in little danger of going to extremes. I’m not going to exercise too much. Nor will I spend too little time watching TV.

  2. Moderation is healthier. Au contraire, not if we’re moderating things that are inherently unhealthy.

  3. There are people who learn to moderate things like food and drink. I would say, most of those people never had a problem with food and drink. I don’t know of anyone who was obese (like I was) and learned to moderate french fries and strawberry pie. But, I’d bet there are other areas they need to reform.

Where is moderation killing you?

Let’s brainstorm some things that promise to kill us.

  • Greasy food.
  • Sugary cereals.
  • Sitting on the couch.
  • Social media.
  • Screen time.
  • Political arguments.
  • Angry people.
  • Inauthentic communication.
  • Unexpressed feelings.
  • Prayerlessness.
  • Relational isolation.
  • Lack of forgiveness.
  • Self-centeredness.
  • Lust.
  • Selfish-ambition.
  • A cluttered (not purposeful) schedule.
  • What would you add?

Don’t moderate, change!

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