The Lost Art of Moderation

You’ve probably heard of the Stanford marshmallow experiment. In the ’60s and ’70s, Walter Mischel — a psychologist at Stanford University – put one preschooler at a time at a desk on which he had placed a bell and a couple marshmallows or other treats equally tough for a kid to resist.

“The researcher told each child that he had to leave, but that when he returned, she could eat both marshmallows,” wrote Michael Bourne in a January 2014 New York Times Magazine article. “If she wanted one marshmallow before then, however, she could ring the bell and eat one, but not both.”

Once alone, the children stared at the marshmallows, or sniffed them, or buried their faces in their hands while they pined, or ate the marshmallows like all that is good depended on their digestion. The study, which discerned differences between people who delay gratification and people who don’t, points to an important truth: We are not unlike preschoolers who are left alone with marshmallows.

We have urges, desires, interests, instincts. We want stuff, like to flirt with or date somebody. Some of us are inclined to get or do what we want as soon as we want to get or do it. Few of us consider this: like for the preschoolers who agreed to wait 15 minutes because it meant two marshmallows instead of one, there are good reasons to delay action, even if what you want’s within your reach.

But we resist it because moderation is a lost art.

Q and A: Doesn’t cohabitation work for some people?

Last year, in a guest post called “On Moving In Together” on Devotional Diva, I challenged the practice of living with a significant other before your wedding.

For some, I wrote, “cohabitation is a litmus test. If it works, you get married. If it doesn’t, you don’t. Because (for them,) it’s better to say ‘I’ll love you if…’ instead of ‘I’ll love you despite what’s yet to come…’ For others, cohabitation is like a practice run. If you like it, you commit. If you don’t like it, you call it quits.”

A response to the story sparked this, the latest installment of Q&A:

The Q: “What about couples who live together, get married, and are together the rest of their lives? Couldn’t you argue that it works some, but not all, of the time?” -Corinna

The A: I am certain there are couples who cohabit, marry later, and live as happily ever after as humanly possible. But I won’t argue that it therefore works for some and not for others. This is because “living together before marriage” is not the “it” that works for the couples whose marriages last. Love is the only “it” that works. Some couples who cohabit have it, and others (I’d argue most) don’t.

Click here to read “On Moving In Together.”

Q&A is an occasional feature. If you have a Q, I can come up with an A (and if I don’t have an A, I’ll find somebody who does). To submit a question, click here. No topic is taboo (although I can’t promise I will answer every question). Click here to read all the posts in this series.

A version of this post originally appeared on the blog in 2013.

The single best way to reduce abortions.

When Lisa Selin Davis told a cabdriver she was going to have an abortion, he pulled the car over on the Brooklyn Bridge in a blizzard. He begged her not to do it. Davis, then a 22-year-old aspiring filmmaker, had conceived the child with a married man she met at a film shoot. But she “didn’t want that baby, with that man,” she wrote in an essay that printed in the Perspective section of the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday.

abortion essay in perspective

The story is sad but bold. When Davis resisted the cabdriver’s appeal, he took her to the clinic to which she had asked him to take her, where after it was over, she woke up sobbing in pain and a paper gown. She was sure she would never be a mother. She was wrong. Fifteen years later, she wrote, she gave birth to a daughter and later, to another.  And, she added, “I want my daughters to have the option of safe and legal abortion, of course. I just don’t want them to have to use it.”

Excited to meet and greet women of all ages at my table at Spirit FM’s inaugural women’s conference in September. The conference is a couple months ahead of the Chastity is For Lovers launch, so I won’t have the book with me. I will, however, have Chastity is For Lovers shirts for sale, plus other swag and save-the-dates for both my book launch parties. When attendees aren’t mixing and mingling among vendors, they’ll “re-fuel, re-focus, and revitalize” at the conference. Ladies in or near Tampa Bay who are interested in registering for it can do that here.

Date: September 20, 2014
Time: 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Event: "My Life. My Faith." | Spirit FM's Catholic Women's Conference
Topic: I'll meet and greet attendees at my table, and will have Chastity is For Lovers shirts for sale, plus other swag.
Venue: Nativity Catholic Church
Location: 705 E Brandon Blvd.
Brandon, FL 33511
Public: Public