Spirituality is a powerful term encompassing a way of thinking about, feeling, and living in the world. Essential to spiritual life is mindful thinking and choosing to experience the many different aspects of human existence and conscious interaction with others and our environment.
With a spiritual view of life, we can see the divine in the mundane, the miraculous in each and every day, and the extraordinary in the ordinary. This monthly series will focus on the spiritual power of common words and the concepts they represent. This month’s word is Prudence.
The Mundane Meaning of Prudence
Prudence is defined as “the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason”. We often need to be prudent when deciding on a job, college, or conversation with certain family members. But what does it mean to understand the spiritual power of “prudence”?
The Spiritual in Prudence
Above are two cards from two different tarot decks that beautifully illustrate the concept of prudence from a spiritual perspective. The first card is from the Sun and Moon Tarot and the second card is from the Rohrig Tarot. In each representation, there is a visual connection between the earth and the sky.
The earth represents reality, the physical world, solidity, and stability. The sky represents hopes, dreams, wishes, and imagination. Thus, the connection of the woman, with her love, helping the plant grow into the sky; and the tree, with solid roots and ethereal branches to form a bridge between the real and the imagined.
Prudence is the “flourishing of inner and outer wealth. Wisdom and creativity” (The Rohrig Tarot Book, 152). Prudence is a cautious risk, not an aversion to risk. If you do want to jump out of an airplane to experience sky diving, then it is prudent to learn how to pack your parachute properly, train with someone experienced, and to study the process before attempting the experience.
Acting prudently is the best way to try new experiences and increase the chance of a positive outcome. As you can see from the cards above, prudence is associated with the suit of pentacles and disks, both symbols for earth energy. Interestingly enough, the prudence card is really about STRIVING and doing so in a thoughtful, not reckless way.
Living a Prudent Life
In an age of consumerism and immediate gratification, prudence has largely fallen out of favor as a philosophy of living successfully, even though its effectiveness never diminishes. When someone falls prey to a risk-averse mentality and an unwillingness to change, they can be referred to as a “prude”, a person who is afraid of new standards who wishes to hold onto “old values” and even force them on others.
Living prudently does not mean living without fun or avoiding what is new. It is an energy that actually helps bring new ideas and actions into the world safely, if not quickly. We have developed many ways to express prudent behavior with regard to money and relationships. It is “prudent” to save money when you have excess in case you have an unexpected need.
My grandfather, who was born in 1919 and lived to be 96, once told me how he saw the world change with regard to money and debt. He was born in rural North Carolina, which is a fairly poor part of the state, even more so in the 1920s to 1950s. I once asked him about the Great Depression; he would have been 10 when the market crashed and 22 when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
When I asked him what it was like to live through the Great Depression, he told, and I quote, “I was poor when it started and I was poor when it ended”. His perspective was not shaken by what happened to the stock market because his part of the world did not “fall back” from gains because it was still functioning at a subsistence level.
I share this story because we sometimes talked about how different it was to buy things in my life than it had been in his. There was no credit when he was growing up. When he saved up to buy something, like his first refrigerator or first car, he saved 20% more than was need to buy the item. I asked him why and he told me the extra was to pay for repairs when it broke.
He lived a prudent life out of necessity, he taught me, along with my grandmother, to live a prudent life by choice. My grandfather always wanted to travel but he could never afford to do so by taking a vacation. Prudently, he chose to be a truck driver. Before he stopped trucking, he had driven to every state in the US except for Hawaii and Alaska.
Making Prudent Decisions
Learning how to make prudent decisions can be one of the best tools in your life toolkit. To get good at the skill of deciding prudently, you have to find the balance between the dream, the reality, and your willingness to “go for it” with your need to “stay safe”. We all have different levels of risk we feel comfortable with and different levels of security that we need.
Prudence is the navigation of those energies in such a way that you feel you are honoring your soul, both by helping yourself strive and grow without unmooring yourself from the attachments and grounding you need to live a healthy physical and financial life. Prudent decision making involves “taking a pause” before the moment you intend to forge ahead. In that moment of review, you take the chance to settle yourself into a positive place with your choice.
Thanks to my grandparents, and my parents as well, I have found living prudently makes for a very happy life. I am not without some pretty amazing leaps of faith, but my method of “leaping” has been honed by prudent spiritual energy. If you can connect the “sky” and “earth” in your decisions, over time you will see an amazing journey unfold with consistent advancement and success. You will also be able to avoid some of the more serious setbacks and losses that come with reckless abandon in situations that really need prudent action.