ראו מטא-סגולה קרדינלית זו בחייכם
This is the last week in the practice stage, and also the last week of virtue literacy building in which we conclude with the first of the cardinal virtues: prudence. This week you should also meet with your character friend for your final scheduled meeting.
It is appropriate to conclude your intensive practice stage with a capstone virtue: the virtue of prudence.
The virtue of prudence is one of the four cardinal virtues (the other 3 being temperance, courage and justice), but it also stands in a category of its own as a meta-virtue that governs all the rest. The virtue of prudence, however, is frequently not understood. After understanding what it is and seeing example of it, you will discuss with your character friend where prudence has had a place in your character in the last 12 weeks of practice.
So let’s start with some definitions. The term ‘prudence’ depending on linguistic translations, is often misunderstood as the habit of ‘being careful’, for example in not taking unnecessary risks or in the wise administration of our money. But this is not the true meaning of prudence, which is much broader. The Latin term ‘prudentia’ has to do with ‘looking ahead with wisdom’ whereas the original Greek term ‘phronesis’ is even broader, encompassing wisdom, intelligence and good judgement in all things related to our actions, character and habits. Take a quick look at the Wikipedia definitions here: prudence and phronesis.
So the virtue of prudence might best be described as the practical wisdom that helps you discern which virtues are necessary as you meet life’s unpredictable circumstances.
In other words, you are prudent if you have discernment in your choices, especially as they relate to virtue. If the virtues are like different tools that hang on a handyman’s belt, prudence is the virtue that allows us to deploy the right tool at the appropriate time. So, for example, prudence helps the soldier decide when it is time for courage and when it is time for patience. It helps the care-worker know when it is time for compassion and when it is time for truthfulness. It helps the leader feel when it is time for humility and when ambition is called for.
במילות קהלת, הזהירות עוזרת לך להבחין מתי הגיע הזמן לזרוע ומתי הגיע הזמן לקצור, מתי הגיע הזמן לצחוק ומתי לבכות, מתי הגיע הזמן להתאסף ומתי להתפזר.
But prudence also allows us to discern how much, and what expression of each virtue is fitting for each circumstance. You see, the virtues are not simple mechanisms that you enact each time in the same way. They are not like buttoning up your shirt that can be done mechanically and mindlessly. If being virtuous is an art, the virtue of prudence helps us paint harmonious pictures. So, for example, prudence helps helps us in situations of conflict to discern a good balance between expressions of justice and expressions of sell-control. Or it can orient us in embracing a new enterprise with the right passion without going overboard and forfeiting diligence towards our existing duties.
Remember, all virtues can go wrong either by excess or by defect, and prudence helps us find the golden mean that is suitable for the given situtation.
זה מתאר אותך? אם כן, כל הכבוד, אתה אדם זהיר.
The vices that oppose prudence are cleverness, which gives the appearance of wisdom but has no substance; negligence, which gives up on seeking the best in every situation; stupidity, which always does the same things in every circumstance; and over-simplicity, which is happy for quick, superficial solutions based on hearsay or personal opinion.
But, of course, virtues never stand alone and so prudence needs to be found in your character with all the other virtues. If, for example, you are only prudent but are not also compassionate and loving, your prudence will turn into the vice of cunning, which is finding ways to benefit only oneself.
Do any of these vices describe you? If they do, and if your score in the Virtue Test was low in this virtue, then you may want to choose to work on the virtue of prudence in your character.
This is the final meeting with your character friend. Here is a suggested outline for your time together: