Living in the Art of Discernment
Living in the Art of Discernment
By Andrea Geones at Words Between Coasts.
We are drowning.
Swept up in a deluge of information: good, bad, honesty, dishonesty, people, places, things, words, melodies, judgment, dreadful negativity, marvelous positivity…. We struggle to breathe under the suffocating pressure of everything all-at-once, but we keep struggling towards the finish line, our breaths labored, our muscles aching, our dry, chapped mouths gulping for air because of the human gift -or is it a human flaw- that is called hope.
We struggle going who-knows-where day by day; most days the weight on our backs feeling heavier and heavier, thinking we know the answer, fooling ourselves that we know where we’re going, when, in reality, we are completely lost. We are drowning, struggling, under the load of everything all-at-once.
We must ask ourselves how to disentangle ourselves from everything all-at-once: we can’t keep going on this way. Not with the everything all-at-once that we know will eventually snatch our last breath from our dry, chapped, gulping mouths.
So, we must learn discernment. A word that everybody knows, to which everybody thinks they understand the definition, but haven’t quite mastered. No, the art of discernment isn’t just knowing how to judge something properly. Discernment is pulling apart the strands, finding the details, and using this information to better understand how to respond; it is combining intellect and intuition, two ‘ins’ that most people push aside in lieu of reactions, of explosive emotional backfirings.
Reactions, instinct, snap judgments, emotional responses: fight, flight, freeze, faint. All those impulses used for survival that most of us don’t even need anymore. Those impulses that were designed to be used in vigilance of vicious beasts in the wild that can cause physical harm or death with one swipe of their massive paws, or the venom of one tooth sinking into our flesh; most of us don’t have to deal with those beasts anymore.
No, our metropolitan jungles are full of different kinds of vicious creatures. They are creatures that we don’t see; creatures of the mind, creatures invisible to the naked eye. They don’t cause physical harm, but instead wreak mental and emotional havoc. They are the ones that feed our oh-so-human need for conflict and drama, the gossip and hyperbole that we so desperately crave like an addiction, those things that none of us want to admit we thirst for.
So when we come into contact with that condemned gratification, we lose sight of those things called objectivity, intellect, and reason. We succumb to immediate pleasures that are empty of nutritional value, like choosing BBQ potato chips over a handful of almonds. We have the world’s information at our fingertips, which makes us want to cling to what is easy, to what is right now, instead of using that thing, that invaluable organ called our brain.
Discernment. A skill that needs to be honed. A way of thinking that is crafted from intentional wisdom, of letting information sink in, and allowing yourself to learn from it. Listening to your past experiences and making decisions based off of your growth from those incidents. Discernment is a practice in humility, of deciding when to keep your mouth shut or voice a calm and reasonable opinion. It’s choosing not to bow to your momentary whims, the ones that you know in the back of your mind that you’ll later regret, and instead opt for rationality and compassion, objectivity, and listening.
Most of us are stuck in an arrested state of development. Instead of learning from past mistakes, we tantrum against admitting we did something wrong. Let’s choose to acknowledge our mistakes, honor our mishaps, and allow ourselves to let those things make us better - especially the ones that we view as unredeemable.
This will help us in our journey of discernment.
It will be your compass.
It will be your life raft.
It will help you rise above the nonsense.
It will keep those voices out that are telling you things you know to be deceptive.
It will keep you connected to that thing we call truth, to that other thing we call sanity.
It will keep others from coloring your perspective.
It will keep you, you.
Life is a never-ending process. Keep learning. Keep making mistakes. Never stop growing.