Quotes About Prudence

Prudence is the exercise of sound judgment in practical affairs. It is classically considered to be a virtue, and in particular one of the four Cardinal virtues (which are with the three theological virtues part of the seven virtues). The word comes from Old French prudence (13th century), from Latin prudentia (foresight, sagacity), a contraction of providentia, foresight. It is often associated with wisdom, insight, and knowledge. In this case, the virtue is the ability to judge between virtuous and vicious actions, not only in a general sense, but with regard to appropriate actions at a given time and place.

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Always exercise prudence, for it can prevent any remorse and regret engendered by loss or failure. So many who have initiated projects have regretted their actions or blamed fate, just because they failed to assess their situation prudently and competently. Such people are doubly in error: for inadequate deliberation and then for criticizing fate. – M. Fethullah Gulen

However great a project’s goal, always take the proper precautions required to attain it. If you do not establish a realistic plan of action and carefully weigh potential advantages and drawbacks, either you are not serious or you are just plain foolish. The efforts of such people is often more harmful than their inaction. – M. Fethullah Gulen

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Prudence and safety measures are important resources for reaching your goal. It is a serious error to be careless and negligent of anything that eventually might cause you to fail or to be accused of various things by others. Smart people envisage all possible drawbacks and problems, and then figure out how to solve them or deal with the appropriately if they should arise. As one of our traditional sayings express it: “It is better to catch a burglar before he or she breaks into your home.” – M. Fethullah Gulen

Embark upon every duty after you have carried out the proper planning activities and safety measures. Be wary of those steps that do not result in any material or intellectual benefit or add any value. Every project undertaken without adequate precautions is triviality and nonsense, a sign of foolishness and childishness in the person preoccupied with it. – M. Fethullah Gulen

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People demonstrate their own virtue and worth through the success they achieve after facing very tough trials and awkward circumstances. Their success under adverse conditions depends primarily on formulating a realistic plan and then sticking to it. Accordingly, a person’s worth and virtue are proportional to the resulting success, and one’s success is proportional to the degree of prudence exercised before setting out on the venture. – M. Fethullah Gulen

To carry out one’s duties in an orderly, consistent way depends on both the initial measures and plans and on one’s ability not to be thrown off course by the actions of one’s rivals. Such dedication demands great forethought and prudence. Many of those who set out with great noise and fuss are caught and delayed by rivals or enemies before they even reach the second step. They find themselves surrounded by the evils and vexations of which they had been warned, and for which they had not prepared themselves adequately. If only that were the sole negative consequence! Consider the effect on those who followed them-the loss of hope, the paralysis and apathy generated by failure. – M. Fethullah Gulen

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Being prudent does not mean being fearful and withdrawing. Nor does action without proper preparation and planning have anything to do with being courageous and bold. Being excessively cautious may cause some damage, but people can recover from such damage. However, the indiscreet and heedless actions of those who think imprudence is heroism are very risky and dangerous. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Like many other bad habits, trying to manipulate the masses with deceitful crowd control techniques is a gift to us from abroad. We reject such things, which remind us of a hen “announcing” loudly that it has laid an egg. Instead, we prefer the slow, peaceful road, even if it means a longer travail affected by more sorrow. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Your true stature before the Creator is measured by your energy and the greatness of your aims. The clearest sign of these two elements is that you willingly sacrifice your own comfort and desire for the prosperity of others. Can you imagine any greater sacrifice than to step on your own dignity for the sake of social well-being, to hold your temper even when you feel like shouting, to limit your own desire at a time of personal prosperity?

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It is foolishness to consider only the daring of a victorious army and disregard the fact that its success derives from strategic planning. Similarly, it is stupidity to attribute success to heedless daring, thereby downplaying the critical importance of prudent planning and forethought. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Efforts to secure a goal, as well as precautions taken to realize it, are invitations for the Almighty’s help. These are two parts of the same reality. A misguided step in either preparing or enacting a project may cause that help to be withdrawn. If that happens, success will not be forthcoming. Safe, steady progress on the journey is possible for those who constantly remain discerning and vigilant. Fortunate are those who understand this fact. – M. Fethullah Gulen

  • You’re mistaken: men of sense often learn from their enemies. Prudence is the best safeguard. This principle cannot be learned from a friend, but an enemy extorts it immediately. It is from their foes, not their friends, that cities learn the lesson of building high walls and ships of war. And this lesson saves their children, their homes, and their properties.
    • Aristophanes, The Birds, spoken by Epops (414 BC).
  • It is always good
    When a man has two irons in the fire.

    • Beaumont and Fletcher, The Faithful Friends (date uncertain; registered June 29, 1660), Act I, scene 2.
  • Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
    • William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790 – 1793).
  • Look before you ere you leap.
    • Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part II (1664), Canto II. Heywood, Proverbs, Part I, Chapter II. Tottel, Miscellany (1557).
  • ‘Tis true no lover has that pow’r
    T’ enforce a desperate amour,
    As he that has two strings t’ his bow,
    And burns for love and money too.

    • Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Part III (1678), Canto I, line 1. Churchill, The Ghost, Book IV.
  • [Prudence] replaces [strength] by saving the man who has the misfortune of not possessing it from most occasions when it’s needed.
    • Nicolas Chamfort, Reflections.
  • You will hear every day the maxims of a low prudence. You will hear, that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. “What is this Truth you seek? What is this Beauty?” men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God have called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, “As others do, so will I. I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land, and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season.” — then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand thousand men. The hour of that choice is the crisis of your history; and see that you hold yourself fast by the intellect.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Literary Ethics” an address to the Literary Societes of Dartmouth College (24 July 1838).
  • Chance fights ever on the side of the prudent.
    • Euripides, Pirithous.
  • Il est sage de ne mettre ni crainte, ni espérance dans l’avenir incertain.
    • That man is prudent who neither hopes nor fears anything from the uncertain events of the future.
    • Anatole France, L’Étui de nacre: Le Procurateur de Judée [Mother of Pearl: The Procurator of Judea] (1892).
  • A prudent and discreet Silence will be sometimes more to thy Advantage, than the most witty expression, or even the best contrived Sincerity. A Man often repents that he has spoken, but seldom that he has held his Tongue.
    • Thomas Fuller, Introductio ad prudentiam: Part II, 2593 (1727).
  • Cautious silence is where prudence takes refuge.
    • Baltasar Gracián. In Maxim 3, The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647).
  • Since men almost always walk in the paths beaten by others and carry on their affairs by imitating—even though it is not possible to keep wholly in the paths of others or to attain the ability of those you imitate—a prudent man will always choose to take paths beaten by great men and to imitate those who have been especially admirable, in order that if his ability does not reach theirs, at least it may offer some suggestion of it; and he will act like prudent archers, who, seeing that the mark they plan to hit is too far away and knowing what space can be covered by the power of their bows, take an aim much higher than their mark, not in order to reach with their arrows so great a height, but to be able, with the aid of so high an aim, to attain their purpose.
    • Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, ch. 6 (1513).
  • It is only by prudence, wisdom, and dexterity, that great ends are attained and obstacles overcome. Without these qualities nothing succeeds.
    • Napoleon I of France, Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916).
  • A prudent Chief not always must display
    His Pow’rs in equal Ranks, and fair Array,
    But with th’ Occasion and the Place comply,
    Conceal his Force, nay seem sometimes to Fly.

    • Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, lines 175-178 (1711).
  • The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.
    • Proverbs, 14:15.
  • That system, again, which makes virtue consist in prudence only, while it gives the highest encouragement to the habits of caution, vigilance, sobriety, and judicious moderation, seems to degrade equally both the amiable and respectable virtues, and to strip the former of all their beauty, and the latter of all their grandeur.
    • Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), chapter 4.
  • A prudent mind can see room for misgiving, lest he who prospers should one day suffer reverse.
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, line 296.
  • Nothing can be done at once hastily and prudently.
    • Publilius Syrus, Sentences, Maxim 557.
  • My idea of the modern Stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.
    • Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (2012) Ch. 10. Seneca’s Upside and Downside, p. 156.
  • It behooves a prudent person to make trial of everything before arms.
    • Terence, Eunuchus, Act IV, Sc. 7 (789).
  • He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
    • Sun Tzu, The Art of War.
  • The last explanation remains to be made about prudence;
    Little and large alike drop quietly aside from the prudence that suits immortality.

    • Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, “Manhattan Streets I Saunter’d, Pondering”; originally published as “Poem of the Last Explanation of Prudence” (1856).
  • Thin-lipped wisdom spoke at her from the worn chair, hinted at prudence, quoted from that book of cowardice whose author apes the name of common sense.
    • Oscar Wilde, Lord Henry, The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. 5, p. 57
  • Multis terribilis, caveto multos.
    • If thou art terrible to many, then beware of many.
    • Ausonius, Septem Sapientum Sententiæ Septenis Versibus Explicatæ, IV. 5.
  • Et vulgariter dicitur, quod primum oportet cervum capere, et postea, cum captus fuerit, illum excoriare.
    • And it is a common saying that it is best first to catch the stag, and afterwards, when he has been caught, to skin him.
    • Henry de Bracton, Works, Book IV. Tit. I. C. 2, Section IV.
  • No arrojemos la soga tras el caldero.
    • Let us not throw the rope after the bucket.
    • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, II. 9.
  • Archers ever
    Have two strings to a bow; and shall great Cupid
    (Archer of archers both in men and women),
    Be worse provided than a common archer?

    • George Chapman, Bussy d’Ambois, Act II, scene 1.
  • Prudentia est rerum expectandarum fugiendarumque scientia.
    • Prudence is the knowledge of things to be sought, and those to be shunned.
    • Cicero, De Officiis (44 B.C.), I. 43.
  • Malo indisertam prudentiam, quam loquacem stultitiam.
    • I prefer silent prudence to loquacious folly.
    • Cicero, De Oratore, III. 35.
  • Præstat cautela quam medela.
    • Precaution is better than cure.
    • Edward Coke.
  • According to her cloth she cut her coat.
    • John Dryden, FablesThe Cock and the Fox, line 20.
  • * * * Therefore I am wel pleased to take any coulor to defend your honour and hope you wyl remember that who seaketh two strings to one bowe, he may shute strong but neuer strait.
    • Queen Elizabeth to James VI. Letter X. Edited by John Bruce.
  • For chance fights ever on the side of the prudent.
    • Euripides, Pirithous (adapted).
  • Yes, I had two strings to my bow; both golden ones, egad! and both cracked.
    • Henry Fielding, Love in Several Masques, Act V, scene 13.
  • Great Estates may venture more. Little Boats must keep near Shore.
    • Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard (1751).
  • Wer sich nicht nach der Decke streckt,
    Dem bleiben die Füsse unbedeckt.

    • He who does not stretch himself according to the coverlet finds his feet uncovered.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Sprüche in Reimen, III.
  • Better is to bow than breake.
    • John Heywood, Proverbs, Part I, Chapter IX. Christyne, Morale Proverbs.
  • It is good to have a hatch before the durre.
    • John Heywood, Proverbs, Part I, Chapter XI.
  • Yee have many strings to your bowe.
    • John Heywood, Proverbs, Part I, Chapter XI.
  • So that every man lawfully ordained must bring a bow which hath two strings, a title of present right and another to provide for future possibility or chance.
    • Richard Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Book V, Chapter LXXX. No. 9.
  • Fænum habet in cornu, longe fuge.
    • He is a dangerous fellow, keep clear of him. (That is: he has hay on his horns, showing he is dangerous.)
    • Horace, Satires, I, IV. 34.
  • Fasten him as a nail in a sure place.
    • Isaiah, XXII. 23.
  • The first years of man must make provision for the last.
    • Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, Chapter XVII.
  • Nullum numen habes si sit prudentia.
    • One has no protecting power save prudence.
    • Juvenal, Satires, X. 365. Also Satires, XIV. 315.
  • Je plie et ne romps pas.
    • I bend and do not break.
    • Jean de La Fontaine, Fables, I. 22.
  • Le trop d’expédients peut gâter une affaire.
    • Too many expedients may spoil an affair.
    • Jean de La Fontaine, Fables, IX. 14.
  • Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it,
    Is a proverb old, and of excellent wit.

    • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ChristusThe Golden Legend (1872), Part VI.
  • Let your loins be gilded about, and your lights burning.
    • Luke, XII. 35.
  • Entre l’arbre et l’ecorce il n’y faut pas mettre le doigt.
    • Between the tree and the bark it is better not to put your finger.
    • Molière, Médecin Malgre Lui, Act I, scene 2.
  • Il faut reculer pour mieux sauter.
    • One must draw back in order to leap better.
    • Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book I, Chapter XXXVIII.
  • Crede mihi; miseros prudentia prima relinquit.
    • Believe me; it is prudence that first forsakes the wretched.
    • Ovid, Epistolæ Ex Ponto, IV. 12. 47.
  • In ancient times all things were cheape,
    ‘Tis good to looke before thou leape,
    When corne is ripe ’tis time to reape.

    • Martyn Parker, The Roxburghe BalladsAn Excellent New Medley.
  • Cito rumpes arcum, semper si tensum habueris.
    • You will soon break the bow if you keep it always stretched.
    • Phaedrus, Fab, Book III. 14. 10. Syrus—Maxims. 388.
  • Cum grano salis.
    • With a grain of salt.
    • Pliny the Elder, Natural History, XXIII. 8. 77. Giving the story of Pompey, who when he took the palace of Mithridates, found hidden the antidote against poison, “to be taken fasting, addite salis grano”.
  • Ne clochez pas devant les boyteux. (Old French.)
    Do not limp before the lame.

    • François Rabelais, Gargantua.
  • Prevention is the daughter of intelligence.
    • Sir Walter Raleigh, letter to Sir Robert Cecil (May 10, 1593).
  • Be prudent, and if you hear, * * * some insult or some threat, * * * have the appearance of not hearing it.
    • George Sand, Handsome Lawrence, Chapter II.
  • Love all, trust a few,
    Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
    Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
    Under thy own life’s key: be check’d for silence,
    But never tax’d for speech.

    • William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well (1600s), Act I, scene 1, line 73.
  • Think him as a serpent’s egg
    Which, hatch’d, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,
    And kill him in the shell.

    • William Shakespeare, Julius Cæsar (1599), Act II, scene 1, line 32.
  • In my school days, when I had lost one shaft,
    I shot his fellow of the self-same flight
    The self-same way with more advised watch,
    To find the other forth, and by adventuring both
    I oft found both.

    • William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (late 1590s), Act I, scene 1, line 139.
  • I won’t quarrel with my bread and butter.
    • Jonathan Swift, Polite Conversation (c. 1738), Dialogue I.
  • Consilio melius vinces quam iracundia.
    • You will conquer more surely by prudence than by passion.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • Deliberandum est diu, quod statuendum semel.
    • That should be considered long which can be decided but once.
    • Syrus, Maxims.
  • It is well to moor your bark with two anchors.
    • Syrus, Maxims. 119.
  • Plura consilio quam vi perficimus.
    • We accomplish more by prudence than by force.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), II. 26.
  • Ratio et consilium, propriæ ducis artes.
    • Forethought and prudence are the proper qualities of a leader.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), XIII. 20.
  • Ut quimus, aiunt, quando ut volumus, non licet.
    • As we can, according to the old saying, when we can not, as we would.
    • Terence, Andria, IV. 5. 10.
  • Commodius esse opinor duplici spe utier.
    • I think it better to have two strings to my bow.
    • Terence, Phormio, IV. 2. 13.
  • Try therefor before ye trust; look before ye leap.
    • John Trapp, Commentary on I Peter, III. 17. Tracing the saying to St. Bernard.
  • Litus ama: * * * altum alii teneant.
    • Keep close to the shore: let others venture on the deep.
    • Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), V. 163.
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