The Cardinal Virtues // Prudence

Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart with Your holy gifts. Let my weakness be penetrated with Your strength this very day that I may fulfill all the duties of my state conscientiously, that I may do what is right and just.Let my charity be such as to offend no one, and hurt no ones feelings; so generous as to pardon sincerely any wrong done to me. Assist me, O Holy Spirit, in all my trials of life, enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts, strengthen me in my weakness, help me in all my needs, protect me in temptations and console me in afflictions. Graciously hear me, O Holy Spirit, and pour Your light into my heart, my soul, and my mind. Assist me to live a holy life and to grow in goodness and grace Amen

Prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you Proverbs 2:11

As I read through the second chapter of Proverbs about God promise of better judgment and prudence by receiving His word, the reality that my choices today will become my circumstances tomorrow settles in around me. It feels like an obvious statement, but there is also something jarring about this truth. However inconvenient or uncomfortable that fact is, we are responsible for the decisions we make and the subsequent actions that follow.

I think as children it's a bit easier to distance ourselves from the worry of consequences; as adults, the results tend to become weightier. In his epistle to the Corinthians,Paul taught that though an act may be permissible within the law, it may not be beneficial or edifying to the church or its members. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 we read, Everything is lawful but not everything is beneficial.

Everything is lawful, but not everything builds up. As potentially exciting as Everything is lawful may sound, it could be a slippery slope and indeed, it requires that we give careful thought to our actions to avoid recklessness. So how do we apply this cardinal virtue of prudence to our daily decision making in a way that we keep God commandments to make the best decisions we can?

Lets begin by first taking a closer look at what it means to be prudent. According to Saint Augustine, prudence is love distinguishing with sagacity between what hinders and what helps.So while everything may be lawful, when we are prudent then it will also be beneficial. Put simply; prudence requires that we decide between right and wrong! It sounds easy, doesn’t it?! 

Sure, there are some, in fact, there are many decisions we make daily that require little effort in identifying right from wrong. But then there are those decisions that feel a bit more muddled and messy. Whether to take the new job that involves relocating your family, as a provider whether to resign from a good paying job that also leaves you exhausted and miserable, whether to use private or public school education or maybe homeschool. 

How to parent in those raw moments when you realize your child has mistreated a child who you know has been bullying your own. Many decisions fall into that murky gray area that leaves you wishing there was a playbook on navigating these waters.

Fortunately, we have a playbook, the scriptures! We are blessed to have a loving Father who knows it is easy for us to lose sight and fall into error and He would love nothing more than for us to bring our worries to Him. There are many ways we can seek God wisdom when facing difficult decisions. We can turn to the scriptures, seek guidance from those whom we believe to be morally sound, and we can even look to the examples set for us by our beloved Mother Mary and the Saints.

We can pray to God for His wisdom and guidance and then tune into His gentle nudging’ guiding us along. Prudence is a habit that we cultivate and grow through practice.

When we are facing difficult decisions, we can follow these steps:

1. Seek counsel from God and others who you trust

2. Make a sound decision based on this advice and the facts at hand

3. Take action based on the decision you have prayerfully made

Just the act of pausing to work through these steps will lessen the risk of making hasty emotional decisions. It's a habit worth developing. But what happens when we try our best to be prudent in our decision making and we get it wrong? Then we take the fourth step:

4. Be willing to seek forgiveness and make amends

God does not expect perfection from us; He just wants us to lean on Him, and not go it alone. In John 15:4 Christ tells us Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

I love this word, abide. I have it written on a note card hung on the refrigerator to remind me to remain in Christ. As long as I abide in Christ, I am never alone nor do I ever have to make tough decisions alone. God is always there for me, to offer me wisdom. He is a loving gardener gently pruning us to help us grow and become more fruitful.

What can you do today to remind yourself to abide in Christ and seek God’s wisdom so that you may be prudent in your decisions today?

To Jesus through Mary -Amelia Manness Gilliland