July 21, 2004 12:40 | Bits

Avoid incurring obligations

Balthasar Gracian's The Art of Worldly Wisdom

47. Avoid incurring obligations. This is one of the chief aims of prudence. People of great ability keep extremes far apart, so that there is a long distance between them. They always keep in the middle of their caution, so they take time to act. It is easier to avoid committing yourself to something than it is to come out of it well. Such affairs test our judgement - it is better to avoid them than to conquer in them. One obligation leads to another and may lead to an affair of dishonor. There are people so constituted by nature or by nation that they easily enter upon such obligations. But for those who walk by the light of reason, such matters require long thinking over. There is more
valor needed not to take up the affair than in conquering in it. When there is one fool ready for the occasion, one may excuse oneself from being the second.