This week, Brandon and I were talking about prudence, which is the ability employ wisdom in the discipline of your daily life, and it’s always been a virtue that is easier for me to admire than to practice. When people think of wisdom, they usually think of age, books, and degrees. All fair enough, I suppose. Wisdom definitely tends to be accumulated with experience, and a long life, literature, and study are fine places to build that experience, but they’re also great excuses to put off practicing wisdom.
This is why I love the idea of prudence so much. Prudence makes the clear connection between wisdom and discipline, or another way of saying it, between wisdom and practice. Wisdom isn’t something that just happens, after all. It’s a virtue, and virtues are developed and grown, slowly, in small steps. Unfortunately, so are vices. Every decision we make is a step, but we determine the direction we’re walking.
Will I get up when my alarm goes off, or will I hit snooze until I have to race through my morning? Will I eat a healthy meal, or will I grab fast food? Will spend time time in prayer and reading, or will I watch hour upon hour of television? None of these decisions are monumental in and of themselves, but they are the small steps I’m taking. In every choice, I can choose wisdom and discipline, or not.
Age, books, and education can all be helpful on our path to prudence, but none of them are a guarantee. Age will only help if we live and learn instead of just driving our heels in deeper and deeper on the same poor choices. Reading is great, but only if we are reading the right books and taking in the lessons they have to teach. Education will help us only so far as we really learn to think as part of the journey. We need to recognize the importance of our choices today if we want to see our goals for tomorrow.