How does Prudence impact my life? Since it is Prudence that guides the conscience in determining the true good via a determination of appropriate versus inappropriate actions, it is Prudence that provides norms for behavior. Prudence is innate in the sense that God gifted us with the capacity to understand good versus evil, right versus wrong, but Prudence is also a practiced virtue, learned through life’s experience. Let’s take an example:
Innately, God gave you the gift of self-preservation; to not harm yourself. Through Natural Law you have an awareness of life, especially your own. You would never voluntarily stop breathing because you innately know that you need air to survive. So, an innate prudent action is to breathe; breathing is a good thing. However, through life’s experience, you learn that all life, and not just your own is valuable and should be protected and not harmed. Therefore, when faced with a moral dilemma of an unwanted pregnancy, Prudence in conjunction with your conscience tells you to protect the unborn and bring the child to term.
Whether it is innate or learned, Prudence impacts every decision that we make. Yet we still might be asking, “What is going on behind the curtain as Prudence informs our consciences so that we can make virtuous decisions?” We’ll address that question in our next three reflections on the virtue of Prudence. Don’t miss it!