How To Grow In Spiritual Discernment

“Be utterly modest and kind; be patient and loving toward one another. Make every effort to maintain the Spirit's unity through the peace link.” 2:2–3 Ephesians 4:2–3

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We grapple with the thought of having to share our discernment with everyone as we progress in it. We make the error of believing that every insightful thought we have is for their good. If the Spirit leads us, it's sometimes true. Other times, we are prompted to pray by the Holy Spirit. Individuals and the body of Christ both benefit from discernment.

This is when Christian maturity comes into play. Discernment and maturity go hand in hand. We make errors, but we also have an impact on the lives of others. Maturity is defined by humility, kindness, patience, and forbearance, all of which are accompanied by love. Knowledge of God's word and observation of God's methods with men lead to discernment without judgment.

Discernment develops over time, and our decisions influence the rate and scope of that development. The ability to notice and distinguish is referred to as discernment. It expands as our knowledge, insight, wisdom, and maturity increase. It is our ability to discern if God is directing us in the right route or not. Discernment is a spiritual gift and a skill that we can develop.

How do you develop discernment?

Because every decision must be made in line with God's will, Christian spiritual discernment can be distinguished from other types of discernment. Christian discernment is defined as a decision-making process in which an individual discovers something that can lead to future action. God leads the individual through the process of Christian spiritual discernment to help them make the greatest decision possible. In Christian spiritual discernment, the greatest approach to arrive at the best option is to look for internal and outward indicators of God's action and then apply them to the situation at hand. Christian discernment also places a strong emphasis on Jesus and making decisions that are consistent with Jesus' teachings in the New Testament. Christian discernment differs from secular discernment in that it focuses on God and Jesus while making decisions. Ignatius of Loyola is widely regarded as a master of spirit discernment. Ignatian discernment is named after Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who developed his own distinct method of Catholic discernment. Ignatian discernment focuses on perceiving God in all aspects of life and uses a series of Spiritual Exercises to help people make better life decisions. The Spiritual Exercises are intended to assist those who are confronted with a significant life decision. Identifying the issue, spending time to pray about the choice, making a wholehearted decision, discussing the choice with a mentor, and lastly trusting the decision made are the seven steps of discernment to be followed.

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How do you get spiritual discernment?

In Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Charismatic (Evangelist) Christian theology, the term “discernment of spirits” refers to appraising diverse spiritual agents for their moral influence. These are the agents:

The judgment required is to distinguish the cause of a specific urge, with the first and last being evil and the second and third being good.

Although some people are said to have a specific ability to sense this through intuitive light, the majority of people are thought to require study, introspection, and possibly the guidance of others.

There are two methods to make this decision. The first is through a charism, or spiritual gift, bestowed upon select individuals for the purpose of recognizing spirits through intuition (1 Corinthians 12:10). Reflection and theological research are the second approach to detect spirits. This second approach is acquired human knowledge, but it is always learned “with the assistance of grace, via the reading of the Holy Bible, works on theology and asceticism, autobiographies, and the correspondence of the most prominent ascetics.”

How do you strengthen the gift of discernment?

1 Pray on a regular basis and seek the Holy Ghost's company. 2 Study the scriptures, put them into practice in your life, and endeavor to understand the gospel. 3 Act on your intuition; use your gift in all aspects of your life. 4 Be obedient; live the gospel every day so you can recognize the “still, little voice.”

How do I ask God for discernment?

Dear heavenly Father, you count our hairs and determine our days; you hang the stars and feed the birds; you open and close doors that no one can open or close. Surely, we can put our faith in you when it comes to making significant decisions, or any decisions for that matter. We're through a similar season right now, Father, and we're aware that we're not alone. For the sake of your honor, we will trust you with generous wisdom, straight roads, and quiet hearts.

We adore you for being the God of decision-making. It is your choices, not ours, that determine the outcome. We'll make plans, but we'll entrust our actions to you. We'll pray, but we'd like you to direct our prayers to heaven. We'll seek advice, but you may count on you to veto any incorrect or incomplete information from our closest friends and mentors. We'll read through the Bible, but not for proof passages, but for you, Father. All we want and need is for you to come along.

Free us from the paralysis of analysis—desiring to make the right decision more than being virtuous; desiring to be known as smart people more than knowing you. Free us from the idolatry of believing that there is just one “ideal” option in every scenario. Free us from making decisions based solely on our comfort and the approval of others, or out of fear of their condemnation. Allow us to understand that good decisions do not always result in the most straightforward outcomes, especially at first. Allow us to make decisions without second and twenty-second thoughts.

Father, we know that your will is our sanctification—our becoming more and more like Jesus—in ALL things, whether it's wisdom about purchasing or selling, vocation or vacation, this place or that place, this person or that person. Give us this zeal; make it our pleasure.

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So, Father, when we trust you with the opening and closing of doors in front of us, make us more and more like Jesus. Everything we eat and drink is for your glory, as are our whatevers, whenevers, and wherevers. Amen.

How many types of discernment are there?

Ignatius' criteria for discerning spirits are divided into four categories: (1) seven attitudes or personal qualities necessary for authentic spirit discernment, (2) three different “times” or conditions in which decisions are made, (3) seven practical techniques that can aid in the discernment process, and (4) some guidelines for determining whether a given inner movement or desire is from a good or evil spirit.

Why is it important to have discernment?

Should I relocate across the country to the place where I've always wanted to live?

I'm sure you've faced a major personal decision similar to one of these. It can be terrifying, thrilling, draining, and exhilarating all at once. We can attempt to avoid it, but making decisions is one of those basic human experiences that we all have to go through from time to time.

When faced with a decision like this in the past, I've always gone with my instincts. I'd mull over the notion in my head for a few days before deciding on the best alternative for me. Most of the time, looking back, I'd think my decision was a good one, but there were occasions when I didn't.

Even when I felt certain in my decision, I would frequently question it. I'd inquire about topics like, “What if I have a change of heart? What am I missing out on as a result of my decision? What if I'm not really interested in what I thought I was? What if I'm not sure what I'm looking for? What if what I really desire isn't the most important thing? What if what I want isn't good for me in the end, or vice versa?” etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.,

This began to change for me in college, when I was fortunate enough to form a friendship with one of my professors, who was also a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest. We were talking about important life matters one day (one of my favorite pastimes), and he stated to me, “Always follow your heart, but first and foremost, ensure that your heart is clean.”

The remark struck me as accurate right away, but I had no idea what he meant. I was curious to learn more. Over the course of our subsequent conversations, he gradually unpacked for me an old approach of decision-making known as discernment.

Discernment is founded on the thoughts of various great mystic minds in Christianity, including St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa of vila, St. Paul, and St. John, to mention a few. It's based on the belief that God speaks to each of us through our hearts' and brains' good and holy desires. Despite our deep brokenness, God created us to be basically good, and He desires for us to mature into our complete selves: to become the most fully actualized, finest versions of ourselves. This is our divine mission, and it is what He created us to do.

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We also have deep brokenness: anxieties, selfishness, insecurities, and wounds, in addition to this God-given loveliness. This is how the Bible refers to it “It is a sin.” These, too, speak loudly in our deepest thoughts and feelings, preventing us from becoming the person we were born to be.

As a result, we have a conflict inside ourselves between our genuine selves and our fake selves. The fight is described by St. Ignatius as a battle between a “good spirit” and a “evil spirit” attempting to seduce us, similar to the angel and devil on a cartoon character's shoulder. These voices compete for our attention and influence.

The brave part of you may be urging you to relocate across the nation, but the terrified half of you is screaming that you'll make no friends if you do, so you'd better stay there. Your wisdom may be telling you to break up with your significant other, but your libido is reminding you of what you'd be losing out on if you did. Maybe your perseverance is asking you to stick it out in a difficult job, while your recklessness just wants to hit your boss in the face with a three-hole puncher.

I believe this is what my professor meant when he said “Make certain that your heart is pure.” We must ensure that we make decisions based on the good desires in our hearts, that we make decisions based on the goodness within us (such as our strength, hope, generosity, and compassion), and that we disregard the evil (fear, greed, or pride).

To be sure, this is not an easy process. Trying to distinguish between our selfish and altruistic wants can be difficult, but it is feasible to do so over time. We gain self-awareness as a result, and we may be confident that we are responding to God's call in our lives: that we are becoming our genuine selves.

Discernment aids us in making the best decision possible for the best reasons. More than that, it gives us the assurance that we will be able to stick to our obligations. The first several years of my marriage were challenging for my wife and me. We had to put in a lot of effort to establish healthy routines of living, talking, and growing as a family. We'd both had doubts about the person we'd chosen to spend the rest of our lives with. Do you have any idea what gave us hope? Looking back on our marriage discernment journey.

Both she and I had carefully discerned and prayed about whether or not we should marry, and we had both come to the unambiguous conclusion that we were meant to be together. We looked back on that discernment as a source of strength in later moments of doubt. We were confident that God had called us to get married to each other and that we had chosen each other for the right reasons.

We were able to see those early problems as obstacles to overcome together, rather than seeing them as a sign of a bad decision, because we knew we had made the correct decision with pure hearts. It helped us see our current struggle as a step toward becoming our actual selves as a group.

You might or might not be similar to me. As I previously stated, my default way of decision-making is to trust my instincts. Maybe you, too, trust your intuition, depending on your personality (or Myers-Briggs type, if you're into that – any more ENFJs in the house?). Alternatively, you might think more logically and evaluate all possibilities. Perhaps you strive to make the most rational decision possible. Perhaps you do what is required of you by people closest to you. Perhaps you enjoy being a renegade and trying new things. Perhaps you act rashly and make a snap decision. Maybe you pray to God every day for signs.

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Each of these characteristics can be beneficial, but they also have disadvantages. Discernment aids us in capturing the best aspects of each. It's a comprehensive approach to assisting us in discovering the authentic, good, and beautiful desires that God has placed deep within us.

Listening to your heart, evaluating with your mind, and bringing God into the dialogue through prayer can help us clarify our motivations and desires, gain confidence in our decisions, and teach us to be honestly our best selves.