The Cardinal Virtues: A Firefighter’s Guide to Life

After a busy couple of weeks, I have once again found myself sitting on the front porch of my home pondering the path that the Lord has laid out in front of me. Many of us think that we are in control and celebrate the manner in which we have chosen to...


People die doing what we do. People get hurt doing what we do. If you are to succeed and become accepted as a productive member of the fire service you need to know this. However, it is the many parts of fortitude that most people fail to fully appreciate.
 
What did I just say above? I stated that fortitude allowed us to endure pain, peril and danger. I also said that it was partway between being a coward and being an impetuous, rash, person. What I am attempting to tell you is that if you are going to truly embody the fullest meaning of fortitude in your life, you cannot rush into things, and neither can you hide from things. You must weigh the risks, study the potential for success, understand the real dangers inherent in doing your duty, and then act in a careful and studied manner.
 
It makes sense when you think about it. People who run away, or run around like chickens with their heads cut off are a danger to themselves and everyone around them. While others are losing their heads, you must keep yours firmly affixed to your shoulders.  This is a great way to approach any part of life, but it is truly essential in an emergency service situation.
 
Let us now take a look at the concept of prudence. I have heard it said that prudence teaches us to regulate our actions according to the dictates of reason. It enables us to wisely judge and prudently determine all things relative to our present as well as to our future happiness. In other words, I am suggesting that you need to learn how to think logically and reasonably. 
 
In short, this virtue urges us to think about what we are doing. Rather than just plowing ahead without any plan, this concept urges us to take a studied approach to living life. Determine your vision for life, and then set up a statement that tells the world who you are and what you intend to do. That plan will include a series of steps that you intend to accomplish. This plan will serve as your road map for the future.
 
Now here comes a story I have often shared with you. When I turned age 40, back in 1987, I set a vision for myself. I created a series of goals for myself and then set out to reach that vision toward which all of those goals pointed. When I gained the age of 50 years in 1997, I assessed my progress toward my goals, and determined that I had met my target. I said that I wanted to accomplish certain things during the decade of my forties. I wisely judged and prudently determined what I wanted to achieve. My feedback told me that I had in fact reached my goals. That was a really neat feeling.
 
Unfortunately, that left me with a new problem. What was I supposed to do for the next ten years? One afternoon, while waiting for my family to return from summer camp, I journeyed out to my thinking porch and just let my mind run amuck. Whereas my goals for the decade of my forties were simple, success at the next level called for a bit more work. I actually sketched out a plan on a lined sheet of paper. I then set out on the next level of my journey through life.
 
Many years have passed since that August day in 1997.   I still have that sheet of paper taped up on the wall above my computer monitor. I went through the same process in 2007 when I turned 60. Let me assure you that I am still a work in progress on all fronts. But more importantly, I have learned that it is important to have fun working toward my goals.
 
You too can focus your life like this. However, only you can decide to wise judge and prudently determine on all things relative to your present, as well as to your future happiness. I cannot live your life for you.
 
The third cardinal virtue of temperance will allow you to maintain a clear head while others are losing theirs. Temperance is that due restraint upon the affections and passions that renders a body tame and governable and guards the mind against the allurements of vice. This virtue helps to define your moral boundaries as you move through life.