Entry 97: Prudence

Photo taken in Tennessee, USA

Photo taken in Tennessee, USA

“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation.”

- Pearl S. Buck

Be careful. These are always the last two words you hear before setting off towards a new experience or adventure. With these two words is supposed to come the connotation of how much the person speaking cares about you. They are saying that they would like to see you again, that they don’t want you to get hurt or that they do not wish for you to be overly changed upon your return. I get it. It’s innocent enough if you are leaving to drive in a storm. At that point, by all means, be careful, but I’m not sure we are sending the right message when it comes to most situations. In reality, when we say be careful, we are telling somebody to play it safe.

“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation.” Notice how age is specifically pointed out by stating the young. In saying this, Pearl S. Buck infers that prudence is learned over time. I would go as far to say that prudence is taught over time. Risk, rejection, and failure are treated like the plague instead of a necessary way of learning. When we tell someone to be careful, we reiterate this, either out of genuine concern or the selfish hope that the experience does not change the individual.

It is odd how some things stick with you. I’ve been given a lot of great advice in my life. Some of it I remember, I’m sure other parts are locked in subconsciously and the rest is lost to time. One piece of advice that I do remember is just like those two words above. It’s something my Dad told me right before I got on the airplane to go to France for a year, easily the greatest experience I would have at that point in my life. There was no speech or list of rules, just like “be careful,” the advice was only two words. Be smart.

Neither he nor I fully knew what I was getting myself into that year, but living an ocean away always provides its opportunities for trouble and change. I do not know if my Dad chose those words specifically, but I remembered them the whole year through every character-forming experience and each daunting situation. Be smart.  

I would not argue that every time we set off on some new experience that we are going out to make change, but by creating a culture of prudence, we mold a personality that becomes less and less likely to create change in the future.

I never advise friends to be careful anymore. Normality is the result of prudence. If you want to grow into the type of person who attempts the impossible, be thoughtful, be kind, be smart.