Discerning is one of those words that has several nuances. A discerning eye or ear implies a certain level of sophistication. Discerning one’s calling implies listening and detecting a path based on a spiritual or inner compass. Having discerning taste implies being choosy and only picking the best. All of these have to do with making judgments, being wise and making a selection. The beauty of “discerning” to me, though, can be found in its etymology – it means to distinguish between or to separate by sifting. Sifting. That gets to very subtle, very fine differences. Seeing the dirty gemstone in a pile of rocks. Separating the wheat from the chaff – which at first, is part of a whole. As Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling right from wrong; rather, it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”
I think that in today’s go-go-go culture, being discerning is a tall task indeed. We are inundated with news, opinions, pictures and stories at all hours of the day. How can we discern subtle differences in an onslaught of input? It almost seems the harder we try to focus on being discerning, the more elusive it becomes. Instead, try focusing on creating quiet and space, and see what arises.
“Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.”
- Lao Tzu
This week’s Challenge: This week, I will be intentional about noticing the subtle differences that help me to be discerning.
Avoiding being Critical (Overuse):
When overusing discernment, you are no longer just sifting to select the good; you are focused on criticizing the “almost” good. And the key is that the good may be “good” for this context – this place, this situation, this time – but that in another context, something else may be a better fit. Making judgments is part of being discerning, but being judgmental is not.
Commendable Trait: Discerning