Ours is a day of self-indulgence, where we are promised to “have it our way” and told “you deserve a break today”. Famous songs trumpet “I did it my way” and anything and everything, from privacy to health care to “self-expression”, has become a right. Few would argue for self-denial and some even hold that self-denial is bad and unhealthy. Abraham Maslow told us that our greatest need was self-actualization, Henry Ford taught us how to make anything faster and cheaper on an assembly line, and we soon discovered that life is really “all about us”.
Most men and women in history have either been self-indulgent or aspired to it, much like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof sang in “If I were a rich man”. There have been a few, like the Spartans in Greece, who believed that self-discipline and self-denial were valuable, and perhaps even better, than self-indulgence. Benedict (480-540) was one such man.