Living the Grace-Full Life
My grandmother who I endearingly call “Grandmama” is probably one of the most discerning women I know. She doesn’t say much, but when she does she usually has a bit of wisdom to share, or a bit of insight regarding a person or situation. I can recall myself often sitting at her kitchen table with a concern over my schooling, a particular boy, or some sort of interpersonal conflict that I was trying to work through. Grandmama would ask the right questions and would get me to think deeply into issues in ways I wouldn’t think of on my own. Good counselors do this. Another thing I’ll add is that Grandmama is a spiritual woman who would sit in her study late at night with her Bible open and her arm rested over it with her hand over her head in prayer. These are memories that are forever embedded in my mind. Although Grandmama is no longer able to live independently, she still prays for me and often offers me wise counsel when I go back to Florida to visit her.
If I have learned anything from my grandmother it is that discernment is a powerful gift. Webster defines discernment as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.” For so long I carried guilt over broken relationships, or failed efforts in achievement. A lot of this had to do with my perfectionism and “disease to please,” but some had to do with a lack of discernment. Some relationships are meant to be broken. Some people are not safe people, and are not healthy for me if I am to thrive in life. Some efforts never reached success because I was not meant to succeed in certain activities or goals. This doesn’t hinder me from thriving, but really enables me to thrive at the things that I am actually called to.
Is there someone in your life with whom you’re at odds with? Is there something that is troubling you that you can’t make heads or tails of? I believe discernment is a gift that can be learned and applied. True, some are born with this gift, like my grandmother, but others like myself can practice discernment in the ins and outs of our daily experience. Instead of taking a person or a situation at face value, we can learn to look into our circumstance and gain knowledge so that we will be more empathetic and less cynical or angry. The Apostle Paul actually prayed for this:
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment…” (Philippians 1:9)
When we grow in our knowledge of God’s Word and of His character, we will grow in our love for one another. As we seek to become more like Christ we will gain a heart of discernment. We can pray for these things just as Paul did. Practically speaking, how can you and I grow in the power of discernment, particularly in regards to relationships? In my experience I have learned and am still learning a few things (from counselors, teachers, and of course Grandmama) that I will share with you. Hopefully these simple tools will help you discern your particular situation better.
1. Pray for discernment/wisdom. Ask God to give you a “heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
2. Listen. Depending on the circumstance, hear out all of the parties involved and seek to understand their point of view. Don’t jump to conclusions- it’s too soon.
3. Ask the right questions. After listening, then ask questions that are relevant to the situation. Start with, “So if I am hearing you correctly, you’re saying….” then go through a series of questions that will hopefully lead you to some answers. In forming your questions have the goal in mind of seeking a resolution. They should be focused questions, not questions that will lead off into rabbit trails.
4. Share your heart. Be real and transparent. Be humble. So many of us women are guarded so that we won’t get hurt. Some of the most angry or agitated women I know are also the most wounded, or sensitive. Just because a woman comes off as an aggressor doesn’t mean that she is insensitive. Often the case is that she is quite the opposite. Be the bigger person and let your guard down first. For example, say that another female co-worker is evidently angry with you, even passively over an issue, give up your rights and say something like, “I may have hurt you, or there may be a misunderstanding. I want to make it right. Help me understand how we can fix this.” Something along those lines. Women with strong personalities who have to work together need to practice this. TRUST ME. I have had some run ends with other strong women and whew- I don’t think a weightlifting man would want to even come near us in those tense moments. We need to be the bigger person, give up our rights, share our hearts, and love that other person.
The power of discernment. With the Lord’s help, you and I can grasp and comprehend the obscure. We may not understand everything throughout our lives, and we may not have peace in all of our relationships, but we can at the least love. Discernment is not for the other person, you see, it is for you. When you learn to discern, you grow in your compassion for others. Isn’t this what Paul prayed- that our love would abound more and more? When this happens we will discover the true power of discernment.