Is drinking a beer a sin? The answer is no. It seems so simple, but so many people fail to grasp the idea of moderation. They have a kind of all or nothing attitude when it comes to the pleasures of this life, and this leads many to either a kind of free for all attitude or a kind of rigid puritanism.

Often, what underlies thinking that is so clearly black and white (wherever one might find it) is the unconscious desire to create a perfect ethics that accounts for the variety of circumstances in life; in a sense, to get rid of uncertainty and confusion. While there exists certain actions that are “intrinsically evil,” the reality remains that in the vast variety of human circumstances, questions of right and wrong are not so clear.

To drink beer like a saint, one needs prudence and good discernment. Along these lines, the natural virtue of prudence is the outgrowth of experience and the supernatural gift of discernment is the outgrowth spiritual experience. In the case of the first, we can learn through trial and error what is the golden mean of moderation. Thus, we learn that certain amounts of alcohol can help us to be social and engage our brothers and sisters while other amounts lead to poor decisions and regrets. Along these lines, spiritual experience teaches us that alcohol can be a part of our spiritual life in a way similar to other pleasures such as food and entertainment.

The saint is the one who learns how to harness the potential of pleasure so that they can return to work and prayer with renewed energy. Every person is slightly different in what constitutes moderation, and that is why each one of us must do the important work of learning about ourselves and what God is calling us to do. No one can do your discernment for you, but good friends and support networks can help you to find your weak spots and discover areas of needed growth. In addition, feeling connected is itself a powerful antidote to addictive tendencies.

So today, I encourage you to take account of all the pleasures in your life, and ask yourself how you are using them. Ask yourself if you consumption of alcohol, food, and television is helping you to draw nearer to Christ, or if it is becoming an anesthetic which is numbing your discomfort with life.