What is Prudence?
Right judgment is essential for making good decisions in everyday life. Right judgment is referred to as prudence. Prudence is a virtue that when developed as a good habit is directed toward right and true behavior. Developing consistently good habits or virtues help to keep our desires always directed in ways that are healthy for us and for our relationships. Let’s take a closer look.
The virtue of prudence is about making right decisions from a purely natural perspective. It assists people to arrange their lives and activities in order to achieve the goal of a happy life. Prudence is basically common sense in sound judgment regarding practical matters. It is naturally prudent to look both ways before crossing the street.
Much like physical exercise or daily practice of a musical instrument, growing in the virtue of prudence requires consistent effort and self-mastery, and most importantly God’s help through prayer. Making a prudent decision involves correct knowledge about things to be done or that ought to be avoided by distinguishing between what is right and what is wrong. Choosing wisely also involves taking good counsel from others whose moral judgment is generally sound.
We can grow in the virtue of prudence through sanctifying grace received in the Sacraments, and thus prudence can take on a supernatural dimension. Prudence at this deeper level is about making right decisions in accordance with God’s will, which is good and the very best for us, benefiting us now and eternally. Ongoing studying of the Catholic Faith as an adult provides the foundation for applying good moral principles to particular cases, assisting us to know what to seek and what to avoid.
In making prudent decisions, we order our activities, desires, resources, and behavior in accordance with the Gospel so that we may come to eternal life. We must use supernatural prudence and courage when we are faced with evil. We can do many things that are imprudent from a worldly perspective but which are prudent for eternal life. This is evident with the martyrs who are celebrated for their living witness of supernatural prudence as they surrendered their life for Jesus’ sake.
Why is the virtue of prudence important? In practicing the virtue, we are better able to see the right thing to do and to choose the right means for achieving it. Further, prudence helps us to see what aids our salvation, what hinders our progress and what is necessary in order to seek the common good for all. Supernatural prudence may involve a certain degree of discomfort because we are often afraid of the consequences of opposition to the prevailing point of view. By growing strong in God’s grace through daily prayer and reception of the Sacraments, we are more open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to greater prudential decision making.
Let us seek to practice this virtue so that we can intentionally make good judgments according to God’s plan which will always make for a joy-filled life.