We all know the pain of regret: the sinking feeling in your stomach, the fire of embarrassment in your cheeks, the emotion and energy sapped from your limbs. It comes when you’ve made a hasty decision you can’t take back. When you’ve blurted out unthinking words that hurt your dearest friend. When you blew off your last chance to see your grandma before she passed away.
Our regret often results from a failure to act prudently. If only we’d made a better decision.
Prudence is a virtue that is both natural and supernatural. We practice it with our intellect and the choices we make with our actions. But it’s also infused in us by God.
With prudence, we discern what choices are right and wrong. It helps us identify the best course of action in our life and choose the right way to pursue it. Prudence guides our conscience in all things. It’s a very personal virtue, and can be practiced in all areas of our lives.
This month, we’ll pray for and practice prudence in order to make choices we’ll never regret.
Practice prudence in your vocation
- Discern your particular vocation.
This is one area where we can’t choose to do something simply because we know intellectually that it is good. Religious (consecrated) life is good. Married life is good. Single life is good. But God calls each of us to one of these particular vocations as a way to achieve holiness. So we need to discern which is best for our good. Which path of life will result in the most growth in virtue for us. Since we don’t know the future, we can’t come to this decision naturally. We must pray and be open to God’s guidance, trusting Him to lead us in the path He desires for us.
- Live your vocation daily.
One of my pet peeves is when people only talk about particular vocations – a one-time big life decision – and ignore its practical daily implications. We all have a call to holiness. This is our daily vocation. To live each moment purposefully, with our eyes on heaven. So we must bring prudence – not only into our big decisions, but into our small, and sometimes trivial-seeming decisions. We must prayerfully ask God: “What do You wish me to do at this moment to draw closer to You and give You glory?”
Practice prudence in your relationships
- Discern your needs.
We each have physical, spiritual, and emotional needs to be met so we can function the best we can as the whole and holy people God calls us to be. If we’re running on fumes, we can’t fulfill our potential as an image of God. If we’re well-rested, we’ll be better able to serve God and others. Humbly discern your needs, and commit yourself to meeting them.
- Be vigilant about your family’s needs.
We have countless interactions with those closest to us: our spouse and kids. And often we live habitually, going through the motions without taking time to reflect on our patterns of interaction. This month, reconnect with the needs of your spouse and kids. Learn their love language. Ask yourself if you’re showing them love in the way they need to hear or feel it. Don’t discipline or pick fights out of habit. Instead, use prudence to guide your kids and engage in open and honest conversation with your spouse.
- Set boundaries with your extended family.
We can have such a love-hate relationship with our extended family. We truly want what’s best for them and feel obligated to keep in contact, and sometimes it tears us in two. They may be hostile to your faith, engage in destructive behavior, or hold polar opinions from you. When they do, it leaves us with a sour taste in our mouth. But you’re never obligated to do anything that’s harmful to you or your family. So pray for guidance and set your boundaries, charitably but firmly.
- Choose your friends wisely.
The more time you spend with someone, the more you become like them. Keep this in mind when choosing friends. It’s good to have shared interests so you can grow and flourish in the gifts and talents God has given you. But it’s also good to have friends with different interests to help you stretch and grow. It’s good to have friends with similar beliefs and convictions so you can support each other in your faith. But it’s also good to include others of different beliefs, to practice seeing Christ in all – even those who don’t know Him yet. Be cautious about spending too much time with those who are hostile to the faith, or those whose influences tempt you to do wrong. You must safeguard your spiritual well-being. Prudently cut back or walk away from relationships that could do you harm.
Practice prudence with your time
- Be intentional about how you spend your time.
Our culture is so fast-paced. We rush from one activity to the next until we pass out in bed, exhausted and overstimulated. We suffer from FOMO and YOLO mentalities, causing us to grasp at every opportunity and fill our schedules, sacrificing our down time. We live in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Take a step back and evaluate your schedule: what brings you peace, joy, and purpose, and strengthens your relationships? What drains your energy and steals your joy? Hold on to what’s good for you and let go of the rest.
- Prioritize family time.
We schedule everything under the sun but do we schedule family time? God gave us our family: our spouse and our kids, to help us grow in grace and virtue. They are our path to heaven. Growing in holiness means growing closer to our family. Acknowledge the need for family time in your life and bump it up on your list of priorities.
- Evaluate your volunteering.
Have you ever heard of Catholic guilt? Yes? Need I say more? We feel obligated to say yes to helping others – especially helping the church. But saying “yes” to one thing often means saying “no” to another. Avoid saying yes to things that will take away from your family life, your calling, your vocation. Before committing to volunteer work, take some time to think about it and bring it to God in prayer. Find out what you would be saying “no” to in order to make room for this new activity in your life. Then discern whether it’s God’s will for you, and stick to your guns.
- Have a healthy social life.
We’re made for connection. God created us as communal beings. Friendships are important and necessary. We need to help and be helped by each other. Make sure you have time for social interactions and fostering relationships. For connecting with others through lighthearted interaction. But, all things in moderation. Don’t focus on friendships to the extent of neglecting your family. And don’t party so hard you can’t get out of bed in the morning to make Sunday Mass.
Practice prudence with your planning
- Prayerfully discern life’s major decisions.
It would be nice to have a Catholic roadmap guiding us in our big decisions. Or better yet, personal messages from God telling us to “Go to Ninevah” or “Don’t be afraid to marry her.” But that’s probably not going to happen. Instead, we need to use our intellect to inform our decisions. Here are some decisions to bring before God:
- work and employment
- home and living arrangements
- school and education
- family size
In all our big decisions, we must invest considerable thought and prayer. We must pray for the grace of God to guide our desires.
- Prayerfully discern life’s daily decisions.
Our small decisions may seem inconsequential to us, and we forget to stop and think about the factors that influence our daily decisions. Am I buying an iced coffee just because everyone else is, even though I’m trying to cut sugar from my diet? Am I going to a retreat because it’s an honorable thing to do, even though it means leaving my spouse home alone with a newborn to fend without me? Does my time on social media enhance my life or take away from it? Bring prayerful discernment and moderation into your daily decisions, such as:
- prayer life
- screen time
- to-do list
In small decisions, it’s not always a matter of right or wrong. Sometimes even morally good or neutral choices need to be evaluated. We can pray for prudence to choose between good, better and best.
- Be confident in your decisions.
We’ll talk more about this in an upcoming challenge on fortitude. But for now, remember to stand strong in the decisions you prayerfully and prudently discern. What’s best for you is between you and God (and your confessor). While others may have strong, convincing opinions, they may not know what’s right for you. Take all unsolicited advice with a grain of salt. Don’t be afraid to go where God’s leading you, and go faithfully!
Don’t be afraid to go where God’s leading you, and go faithfully! Tweet this.
Take the Challenge:
Are you ready to grow in prudence? Let’s get started! Here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare. Reread this post carefully and reflect on what it means in your life. Print out your materials and place them in convenient places in your home.
- Every morning, start the day with prayer (find it on your Nightstand Guide).
- Throughout the day, use your Fridge Guide to help integrate prudence into your life. Your Fridge guide has brief reminders, and some bonus extras (like an indulgenced prayer – woot!).
- Every evening, pray the nightly Examen (find it on your Nightstand Guide). This is a step-by-step review of your day, including praying for forgiveness, and resolving to do better tomorrow.
- Before confession (or weekly at least), prayerfully read the Examination of Conscience. Reflect, not only on your sins and failings, but also on how God has blessed you with growth in virtue!
Download Your Free Printables
This Virtue Challenge is going to change your life! I pray God gives each of you (and me too, I need this) the grace you need to grow in prudence and to become the saint He’s calling you to be.
Take the Prudence Virtue Challenge now! Grab some cardstock, print your printables, and get ready for a grace-filled, growth-filled month.