Dear Prudence…

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders

I worked recently to clean up an older presentation of mine, and the cardinal virtue of Prudence kept coming to mind. In the presentation, I review how contemplative practice gives us time to deeply consider decisions, to maybe bounce an idea around inside your own head. This in itself is an example of Prudence.  I focused on prudent practicality as an example, more specifically posing the desire of wanting to build a bridge. The prudent considerations are, do I have resources? Do I have time to complete it? 

There's more to Prudence than just the practical example, and I missed that part in my considerations. The presentation doesn't need to deep dive into a sub-lecture in Prudence, but I needed to consider this more carefully. With some keyword searches and some reading, I stumbled across an article on Prudence that seemed to reflect and even summarize my thoughts.

"The word 'prudence' is used in several ways in contemporary English, and its different philosophical senses to some extent reflect that variety. Traditionally, Prudence is the ability to make morally discerning choices in general; but the term is also used to denote a habit of cautiousness in practical affairs; most recently, attempts have also been made to identify Prudence with practical rationality, perhaps even with the pursuit of the agent's own interests, without any specifically moral implications." 1

Morally discerning? Cautiousness in practical affairs? Practical rationality? Pursuit of interests without moral implications? What was this crazy talk?

However, I believe this author might be on to something, and that something might help Masons like me looking into the Cardinal and Theological Virtues. Practicality, morality, and cautiousness don't just pop out of thin air. We must work toward sharpening skills here, or in other words, we have been given working tools to assist us in bettering ourselves. 

Bettering our skillset with regard to Prudence comes down to understanding three things about our own behavior, and this applies to each of the virtues. We have to gather knowledge. This can be an instantaneous snapshot from childhood warnings to look both ways before crossing streets, or it can be walking into a building and scanning for threat assessment – is there anyone here who potentially poses a threat/what is that threat? We apply our own acquired knowledge, hopefully as wisdom, toward this assessment of any given situation. We now make a decision based on our best judgment, and then we act in the best manner we can achieve—a little more on that.

For you folks that studied risk, we gather information, and then we make a decision based on what we know. In other words, we create a risk analysis, we make a decision based on that risk analysis, and we take the risk path that best suits our situation at that time. Is that always the right choice? I'm glad you asked. No, it isn't always the right choice. However, it can be the best choice we have at the time, based on what we know and observe. We can make the choice that we know is morally right, and still, someone possibly gets hurt, but if we work with our working tools, we can sleep at night knowing we put our best effort toward our actions. Our own moral compass sits solidly on Prudence. 


1. Hughes, G.(1998). Prudence. In The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Taylor and Francis. Retrieved 28 Aug. 2021, from doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L078-1

Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors's Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12-year span. Randy's Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two Symbolic Lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, a full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

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