The Power of Discernment

Life is a series of choices. Some choices are more benign like what shall I eat for dinner tonight. Other choices are more consequential like whom I shall marry. Every choice, big or small, requires a certain level of discernment. Make the wrong choice and life turns upside down.

And now, my sons, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.  Happy is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.  For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; but he who misses me injures himself; all who hate me love death.”  Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars.  She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table.  She has sent out her maids to call from the highest places in the town,  “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who is without sense she says,  “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.  Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”  He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.  Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.  Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.  For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.

Proverbs 8:32-9:11

Great Lent is about focusing on the choices that matter not today but forever. Today’s reading from Proverbs reminds us that happiness comes from following God’s ways rather than our ways. Happiness comes when we discern wisely.

We are all faced with such choices in our lives and in our relationships. “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser.” Discernment in our relationships I suggest is more important than whether we eat meat today or fish.

No doubt you have seen various comments ‘against’ fasting in the past couple weeks. We are surrounded by those who judge our fasting by telling us fasting is not important. It is better not to judge; we are told by those who are judging us. Some are even our friends.

“He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who rebukes a wicked man incurs injury.” You will never convince someone to fast who thinks fasting is a waste of time. Let them be unless you prefer that they “hate you.”

Proper discernment begins not with others, but in our hearts. When our hearts are turned inward, our choices focus on our desires. Those choices lead to injury and death. When our hearts turn toward God, our choices lead to life and happiness.

If you take anything from today’s reading in Proverbs, take this. Don’t waste time trying to convince others about God or His way of life. Let God take care of others. That doesn’t mean shunning them. It doesn’t mean ending relationships.

It only means respecting their free will as much as you want them to respect your free will. Practice discernment first by keeping your opinions of others to yourself. Practice discernment first by reminding yourself you’re not their God.

When you have found the path to proper discernment, your relationships will be more peaceful. Then, maybe, others will ask for your opinions if they choose. Until then, allow the power of discernment to bring you happiness.

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