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How to make major life decisions

In one word, dear young reader, make major life decisions with PRUDENCE. This is not likely a prominent word in your teen vocabulary. In fact, the idea and the very word “prudent” is in bad odor in recent times. It has nothing to do with being a prude. It is not simply an attitude of caution, restraint or timidity. Prudence is the ability to discern the correct and best course of action in a situation. In other words, it’s common sense.

Prudence does not answer the question, “What is the best way in principle to do the right thing?” It answers the question, “What is the best way for me, in this situation, to do the right thing?”

It is usually not difficult to make a decision on abstract moral principles. “Honor thy father and they mother” is an abstract moral principle. But what do you do when the best thing for a parent is residence in a nursing home, and he or she doesn’t want to go? “Thou shall not steal” is a principle. But what do you do when you know a fellow worker is stealing from your employer? “Love thy neighbor as thyself” is a principle. But how do you treat a neighbor who has AIDS?

A prudent person weighs the situation and sometimes takes counsel with others. It is assumed that both the one weighing and the one giving the counsel have some knowledge of moral principles, have had some experience in life, and have profited by their experience. A prudent person has the ability to learn from others; for example, through reading, through homilies, from going to confession or to spiritual direction, or from conferring with a true friend and Christian confidant. He or she then exercises common sense and foresight to make a decision.