The Do’s and Don’ts of Discernment
During this time as young adults, we face so many decisions. “What’s should I choose as a major?” “Should I go to graduate school?” “Should I marry this guy/girl?”
We constantly have to remind ourselves that God’s plan is LITERALLY infinitely better than what we can plan for ourselves. Fr. Trey Ange shares with us a few guidelines in getting us through those big life decisions that many young adults encounter, and helps us look at them through a lens of what the Lord wants for us.
Father Trey says that discernment is less about making a decision and more about being open to all possibilities that the Lord might be calling you to. God gives us the gift of free will and the intellect to make decisions. He gives us all the faculties we need to think about our choices and make decisions based on information that we have been given, but He wants us to include Him in that decision-making process.
Not everything needs discernment. For example, what cereal you eat in the morning does not need discernment; rather, we discern big life decisions. The key to discernment is complete abandonment to God’s will.
Here’s what Fr. Trey has to say about the Dos and Don’ts of discernment:
True discernment is immersed in prayer. If you aren’t praying about it, it really isn’t discernment at all. Be patient with God. After a while, if you feel like you aren’t getting an answer in prayer, maybe He is allowing you to make a decision on your own because both outcomes are good. Whatever the Lord wants the outcome to be, it has to come from that communication with Him through prayer.
Get spiritual direction
Take into consideration the wisdom of another. This doesn’t mean you have to find someone who’ll talk about what you’re discerning once a month for 5 years. Find someone wiser than you whom you trust. Even if just in one meeting, this person could help. They don’t even need to be a priest. They could just be someone whom you look up to spiritually to guide you with an unbiased opinion. It always helps to get an outside perspective. Of course, regular spiritual direction is always a plus.
Don’t give up on your prayer. You’ll find it very easy to give up. You’ll find it easy to think that you’re not getting anywhere. Know that any type of hopeless, defeated, useless attitude is NOT from God. Thoughts of giving up in prayer are from the enemy. We need to combat that with more prayer and seeking the sacraments.
Discern Decisions Besides Vocation
Whether it is about going back to school, starting a job, start dating someone, or moving away, it is good to invite the Lord into our thoughts. Again, if you feel like you don’t have an answer, it could be that God is allowing you to make your own decision and whatever you decide He can roll with that.
Develop Good, Virtuous Friendships
This is probably the most difficult thing to do, but one of the most important. Distance yourself from those who will prevent you from pursuing God’s will. Surround yourself with like-minded people who are also praying and will encourage each other. That’s the beauty of the Catholic Student Center and community: you have tons of friends who constantly seek the will of God and desire the same for you.
Don’t seclude yourself into a box. Those friendships you have will act as a sounding board. You may be able to make decisions based on what you receive in your friendships and with others.
Dismiss Emotion or Let it Confuse You
Don’t make decisions in a moment of heightened emotion. Take it to prayer first. You can say things like, “Okay, Lord, this made me happy,” and He will take that into consideration. He knows how those things make you feel, but you aren’t looking for an emotion. You are looking for peace.
Compare Discernment to Others
“To compare is to despair.” Your discernment won’t look like your friends’. Don’t let their decisions dictate yours. God has a specific plan in mind for YOU.
St. Theresa of Avila said, “The person who has himself as a spiritual director has a fool for a spiritual director!”
Limit God’s Options
Don’t lay out all your options for God to choose from. If you’re truly open to what God wants then you’ll accept even the seemingly strange things He has for you.
Fr. Trey’s Steps to Discernment
- Open your heart to God in a decision
- Collect all the information that you possibly can
- Prayerfully make a judgment based on that data
- Only if you get new and relevant information or a game changer, go back to Step 1. Otherwise, don’t keep going back & going in circles with the decision.
- Make the decision and GO FOR IT!