Prudence

It's often said that having knowledge means nothing if you don't have wisdom, and that is true. Since knowledge is so meaningful in itself, having the wisdom to use your education and skills to a proper and practical use is essential to living a well-rounded life. This is why Prudence is one of the more important values in the Roman Virtues, because according to the Roman Virtues prudence covers wisdom and the foresight to make proper decisions for your own well-being and the well-being of others.

While knowledge means having the right answers, wisdom refers to making the right decisions and often covers a more spiritual sphere than knowledge. There is a practical side of wisdom as well, however, and this side may be the best to focus on until you feel confident making moral decisions. Why? Because while the best of behaviors are made by moral guidelines, so are the worst of behaviors; with that in mind, you might want to try a logical approach while you first take this wisdom on, even if you feel pretty confident. Ask yourself this: which decision best benefits me and those around me? Which one best improves the well-being of myself and my loved ones? Do any decisions unfairly harm the well-being of others? Think about the long term ramifications of each decision—and the short term ones as well. Don't cheat long-time growth and love over short term gain and gratification. Don't let the fear and anxiety in the now cheat your future either.

If you are careful, you will begin making decisions that are better for you and those around you because you will soon avoid making decision based on what you want and start making decisions that give you the most. You will also avoid selfishly gaining from the detriment of others' well-being (whether by intention or accident), and you will earn more trust and true intimacy with your loved ones, friends, and colleagues. This is the end goal of wisdom, that you protect your practical and emotional future, and that the sphere of influence your life has is far more positive than negative.

The difference between knowledge and wisdom is that knowledge is without morality, and can be used to harm lives just as effectively as it can be used to help them. Knowledge is not to be underrated, however. Knowledge is the foundation for wisdom, and without it one often makes unwise decisions that he or she can't undo or often even recognize because a lack of knowledge is a fundamental lack of perspective. Knowledge also tends to make people more open to new ideas and different people, which can help you act in a manner that is consistently responsible and supportive to the well-being of all people.

As you begin to work toward the good of your society and your fellow human beings, then you are already on your way to morality and have a strong foundation on which to build a valuable and durable system of morals.

Getting wisdom, now, is mostly a matter of trial, error, and lots of practice. Here are some tips that might get you pointed in the right direction:

Activities

  • Stop to Think: Before you make any important decision, take time—if any time is had at all—to think about the ramifications so you can try to make the best decisions possible. Even think about less important decisions as well, and you may learn that they have consequences to other people you never even thought of before. If you keep a journal as suggested below, include these decisions in your record, making sure to describe thoughts about the quality of the choices you made as well.
  • Start Writing a Personal Journal: Just record your personal thoughts and experiences. Try to use this as an opportunity to see things from outside your own perspective too, so write down how you believe other people perceived your behavior as they interacted with you.
  • Experience and Enjoy other Viewpoints: Enjoy media and art from people who think differently from you. Take the time to have conversations with friends and acquaintances (when appropriate) about their own views. When you are arguing, take the time to listen to the point the other is trying to make—and don’t listen only to construct a counter-argument, try to empathize. Some people are very uncomfortable with hearing other opinions, but how can you look outside yourself if you edit the world around you (and attempt to edit your friends and family) to your own worldview? As you empathize with others more your opportunity for wisdom grows.
  • Find Good Role Models: This can be dangerous, because we imperfect beings often choose the wrong ones, but try to find role models that exemplify good wisdom. Try to find respected role models from outside of your own culture-group or from another way of life altogether, or someone with a profession or background you usually wouldn't be interested in. Next, you would read less biased biographies that point out their failings as well as their strengths—you can learn from their mistakes as well as your own. If you have better role models that exhibit wisdom, you will likely become wiser.
  • Work on Sternness: Focusing on the self-control aspect of this virtue will help you get out of a moment of anger or other uncontrollable emotion so you can make a thoughtful, logical decision. This might mean you have to leave and calm down before you confront someone, or that you take time to contemplate before you return to someone who hurt you terribly.
  • Work on Discipline and Frugality: Sometimes we make bad decisions not because we don't know better, but because we don't have the internal tools that are necessary to make the difficult decisions and stick with them. If you are making bad decisions about money, then try working on the virtue of Frugality.

Your Record

Whenever you act for an immediate gain that will turn into a larger long-term loss, mark yourself at fault. Whenever you unnecessarily make a decision that will benefit you at the expense of others, mark yourself at fault. Use the list above as a guideline for further goals and activities. If you fail to participate or if you fail to reach your goals, then mark yourself at fault.

Opinions

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.

Marilyn vos Savant, American Journalist

Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.

Albert Einstein, German-Born American Scientist, Renown for his Brilliance

Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself.

Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese Born American Philosophical Writer

Golden Mean

Carelessness, Indiscretion, Haste, Impulsiveness
Prudence
Overcautiousness, Cowardice

Recommended Reading

The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types — by Don Richard Riso, Russ Hudson

This book has interesting perspectives on different types of personalities, their most likely strengths and foibles, and how the interact with one another. Good for an attempt to make an unbiased study of yourself and get a better idea of what decisions will be best for you.

Mindfulness in Plain English, Updated and Expanded Edition — by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Many people use meditation to overcome their worst anxieties, stress, and angry feelings, so this may be an avenue you will want to pursue. If so, this is a great book for those starting out.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Your Social IQ — by Gregory P. Korgeski

This book from the "Complete Idiot" series introduces the topic to people who are just breaking in to the concept. While Social Intelligence might not equal wisdom, it will help you make wise decisions when interacting with others.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.



On Amazon.com

Prudent, cautious self-control, is wisdom’s root. Robert Burns
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