Good is restraint in the body;
good is restraint in speech;
good is restraint in thought.
Restraint everywhere is good.
The monk restrained in every way
is freed from all suffering.
(Daily Words of the Buddha)
I’ve always been interested in restraint. Our concept of self-discipline stands upon the twin pillars of doing what is difficult and restraining ourselves from the pleasures of the moment. Consequently, we look down upon those who cannot control themselves.
In today’s extrovert-dominated world, however, the idea of restraint is not a popular one. (Check out Susan Cain’s book Quiet to learn how extraversion came to dominate our lives only recently.) Too often we view restraint as inhibition and view both negatively. I’m sorry, but I’ve seen too much to support a let-it-all-hang-out attitude. Some things, as you can see at beaches and Walmart, should be hidden.
You might argue that a restrained life is somehow less satisfying than a more freewheeling lifestyle. I disagree. I can think of nothing more satisfying than being in control. More importantly, restraint is not a matter of missing out. Rather, it is a matter of sampling–not gorging upon–all that life has to offer. Denis Prager refers to this as a life of “passionate moderation”, a concept that I wholeheartedly (without restraint) support.