Fr. Roy Cimagala .
WHILE it is true that to be prudent in our actuations, we need to come up with some theories and hypothesis, we also need to realize that we should not stop only in the speculative level. We have to go all the way to the practical level too. The virtue of prudence would not be prudence unless its speculative part is accompanied by its practical aspect. Theories without action distort the true nature of prudence.
Yes, it is important to theorize and hypothesize if only to concretize some highly abstract truths, principles, standards and criteria. Theories and hypotheses make sure that the truths, principles, standards and criteria we are using are truly relevant and applicable to a particular situation, problem or issue. They offer us good guidelines in our actions.
So, theorizing and hypothesizing is indispensable, otherwise we might just be doing a lot of things, giving ourselves the impression that we are progressing or accomplishing something when, in fact, we are missing the real point.
But no matter how important and indispensable the theories, hypothesis, formulas and the other forms of speculative work are, they would amount to nothing if we fail to act on them. Action completes our prudent actuations.
Acting on our theories and hypotheses, of course, may involve some trial-and-error stage. And it may happen that we can be in error in the end in spite of our best efforts. But that would be better than doing nothing, unless it is quite clear that to withhold action for a while may be the most prudent thing to do.
It’s important that we act. That’s why we not only have heads to think but also hands to do, and both faculties have to be used. And even if the results of our actions are contrary to what we aim at, our actions, at the very least, can always give us precious lessons, can shed light on certain things that we may have forgotten to consider in our planning. It’s always worthwhile to act. We should not be afraid to act.
Of course, given our human condition, some people may lean more on the speculative type than on the active type, and vice-versa.
But no one can and should be exclusively speculative or exclusively active. Everyone has to have both dimensions, though in varying degrees.
Yes, there are the so-called planners and policy-makers, but even in their planning and policy-making they have to do action to make their work attain its intended objective. There are also implementors who carry out what the planners and policy-makers suggest or propose. These should do their job in close coordination with the planners and policy-makers.
There therefore has to be collaborative work between the mind, heart and hands, between thinkers and doers, between superiors and workers. And toward this end, good relation should be established and developed. There has to be mutual influencing among the different parties involved.
In this regard, it should be said that whatever task one has to do, whether it is more of the speculative type or the active type, he should do it as best that he can. And while the quantity of their work is important, priority should be given to the quality of their work. “Non multa sed multum,” as one Latin aphorism aptly puts it, not many things but much. In short, quality over quantity.
Again, in this regard, everyone should realize that whether he is doing speculative or practical work, he is actually lending himself as instrument and material for the continuing work of God over his creation. In other words, our work is a participation of the abiding providence of God over all his creation.
In a sense, even if we are doing a very mundane work, we would actually be doing some sacred work since that work is part of God’s providence.
Our freedom needs temperance. The reason is simple. Freedom is such a tricky thing to handle. It can easily be abused and ruin us. If not handled properly, its comeuppance is much graver than whatever pleasure its so-called perks and privileges can give us. So, caveat emptor!
That’s why St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians issued this warning: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (5,13)
We need to understand that freedom is a gift from God and is governed by God’s law. Freedom is not something we generate ourselves. It is something given by God and received by us. It cannot be exercised simply on our own designs. By definition, it has to be related to God, its source and law.
It is something relational, not something absolutely ours. We have to be most wary of linking freedom with being absolutely ours, sadly a common phenomenon these days. That is not true freedom. That would be an abuse, a distortion of freedom. It would be a false freedom that sooner or later will lead us to some form of bondage.
We need to understand then that the proper exercise of freedom is not simply a matter of being free to choose anything. Yes, there is a free choice involved, but it has to be a choice that has to be related to God. Our choice that is inspired by true freedom is when such choice coincides also with God’s choice in a given situation.
But, alas, this is not easy to do for us. And that’s because of our wounded, sinful condition that often leads us to give priority to what we want rather than to what God wants. And often, this anomaly springs from the urgings of our flesh that definitely needs to be disciplined and purified and directed to our proper ultimate end—God.
This is where the virtue of temperance enters. It has as its purpose the integration of the bodily aspect of our nature with our spiritual dimension and supernatural goal. It aims to keep and nourish the integrity of our life that is often threatened by a variety of divisive factors and fragmenting conditions of our earthly life.
It’s actually a very positive virtue, though it obviously involves some restrictive and prohibiting elements. Unfortunately, many of us get stuck with the latter negative side of it, while ignoring its very constructive character.
We need to be realistic about our life. We should not forget what Christ said once in this regard: “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” That’s the naked truth about ourselves insofar as the relation between the body and soul is concerned.
We have to overcome that prevalent thinking that somehow allows the body to have whatever it wants as long as it does not make a mess in public or with the law. In short, it can have what it wants even if it goes against God’s law for us or even our own nature as long as one is not caught.
It’s this kind of thinking that is behind the surge these days of alcoholism, gluttony, eroticism, infidelity, frivolity, etc. Modesty and moderation are hardly known, let alone practiced.
Temperance actually constitutes for us a liberation from our carnal self. It’s actually an expression of freedom so that we can realize more fully our dignity as persons who know how to think and love properly, and as children of God who are supposed to live their lives with God.
So, far from undermining our freedom, the virtue of temperance helps us to live our freedom properly. It helps us to be always vigilant so that we don’t get easily deceived by the false values our wounded flesh often offers us.