Moderation, Please

By Neil Earle

“Moderation is the lesson of maturity. Caution and pragmatism bloom with experience; impetuosity, impatience and utopian dreaminess mark adolescence.”

Wise words from best-selling author, clinical psychologist Diane Medved, devoted mother and wife of articulate talk-show host Michael Medved. She was addressing a USA Today audience on how political and cultural extremism seems to have hijacked the sane middle in much of American life (9/13/2013).

Often scorned as too much of a right winger herself, Dr. Medved was incisive in getting to the source of our growing uncivil culture. A lot of it traces to the feverish 60 second news cycle we are in today which is a part, says Medved, of today’s overcharged electronic landscape. Today, “the stage has broadened and actors need to make louder voices to be heard.” Today’s social media has affected even older respected media outlets wherein “increasingly desperate traditional news media compete, requiring ever-more-novel and shocking positions to attract attention.” “You don’t go viral suggesting respectful cooperation,” she adds.

Pam Frampton of the St. John’s Telegram makes a similiar point in an article titled “Journalism under pressure” (August 24, 1013) wherein she encouraged news outlets to be first with the facts rather than first with the news. “I think we all – journalists, viewers, readers – need to take a deep breath and accept the fact that some stories require digging and multiple-source verification. And that news should never be reported to satisfy the desire for instant gratification.”

“Instant gratification” – now there’s a phrase.

Too much news reporting today – especially on cable – is sought out to back up our already formed pre-digested political or cultural positions.

Let’s Be Practical

“‘Moderate’ is a compliment,” argues Medved. “Moderation is prudent. It needn’t neglect ‘principles.’ Principles undergird proposals but moderation puts them into practice.”

She shows how this works in our everyday life. Families thrive on moderation, she says. “Ask any parent: Do you want your child to be reasonable, considerate and tolerant of his siblings? Or do you respect more the tantrum-prone child who demands things his own way?”

No argument here.

Or, she continues, branching into her own field of marital counseling, “What kind of marriage is more likely to succeed? One where a spouse unyieldingly rules the domicile or one where mates offer selfless gestures to smooth and improve the relationship.”

Her poster child for these immature divisive practices are Congressional extremists and bloviating talk-show hosts who delight in feeding their target audiences their own glandular opinions. A psychological hardening is a result. Almost everyone can now see the consequences of what consistent immoderate posturing has done to America’s public life. Congress, for example, now ranks lower than the IRS in public opinion polls. It is obvious that extremists often now hold the national government and the air waves hostage. Paralysis has resulted.

A Biblical Challenge

Dr. Medved and Pam Frampton are sensibly cutting through the clutter and refocusing attention on principles that the Bible has upheld for millennia. “The first to present his case seems right,” it says in Proverbs 18:17, “till another comes forward and questions him.” Then there is Paul’s classic statement to the church in Philippi – “Let your moderation be known to all men,” he said in Philippians 4:5 (KJV). Actually the word can also be translated “forbearance,” “graciousness,” gentleness” – all qualities seemingly in short supply in our public life today.

Kudos to these two ladies for presenting this problem so incisively. Our challenge is to become ambassadors of moderation, careful in how we express ourselves at the breakfast tables, the office table, or the cabinet room. There is lots of wisdom in the old adage to count to ten and think again.