Wednesday, 11 September 2013

On Discernment and Knowing One's Self

Woman in the Window,
Ruthe Dawes
Every day we are presented with choices. Should I go to that retreat, should I buy this book or that dress, should I talk to that particular person, should I accept this job, et cetera. For many of them, decisions can usually be made relatively quickly because the matters aren't so grave.

In the spiritual realm, however, deciding on the right path may be extra-tricky: first, because the issues are usually weighty; and secondly, because all the options often seem equally noble. We should not do anything wicked and we should not do anything absurd, that much is clear. Christians are to love and serve the Lord, and to live holy, yes we understand that. But between these boundaries, lie a vast number of possibilities.

The saints show this happy problem with their lives. The saints came from various backgrounds and led different roles when they lived on earth, yet all of them were deemed worthy to take part in the Beatific Vision. From them, we see that there are many ways to do good, there are many ways to serve the Lord, and there are many ways be holy. The question is, which way does God see me going? The wise Christian would want to make sure that he's doing what God wants him to do. This is where discernment takes place.

Discernment goes past the mere perception of the senses. It thoroughly judges the value of a choice beyond what is apparent. It keeps the sight on the ultimate goal and at the same time takes multiple factors into account, including past failures, deepest desires, old dreams, personal preferences, and God-given charisms. Discernment needs to weigh both the interior and exterior life, both the known and the unknown, both what the mind offers and what the heart yearns for.

For this reason, not only one needs wisdom about the thing being discerned, but also wisdom about one's self. In fact, the beginning and the end of a proper discernment is always the knowledge of the self. This knowledge of one's self is a crucial step in finding out how to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and and with all your mind", in other words, how to love and serve Him as He wants to be loved and served.

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