Prudence requires a certain open-mindedness. We must respect the true variety of things and experiences that life presents to us. In particular, we must be willing to take advice, for reality always exceeds our perspective. As St. Thomas Aquinas notes, “No one is altogether sufficient in matters of prudence.” In contrast, a know-it-all attitude demonstrates resistance to the truth of what is real.
Closely related to prudence is solertia. This nimbleness appears when a sudden event confronts people and they do not close their eyes and blindly take random action, but instead decide for what is good and act swiftly, avoiding injustice, cowardice, and intemperance. Their sudden action is not blameworthy,
for changing circumstances may demand swift responses.
One of the false forms of prudence is astutia, the cunning practiced by people who avoid reality and are concerned only with tactics. This cunning can even be practiced in pursuit of a good end. Genuine prudence, however, requires that both the means we use and the purposes we pursue be good. It demands that we be consistently loyal to reality. Thus prudence is essential to right action.
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The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington