Answering The Call: Discernment An Integrative Way of Proceeding
Updated: Feb 2
Where am I called?
In fulfilling our mission we look to what will be of the greatest service and where we feel most alive.
In the field of cognitive research, psychologists and neuroscientists are offering insights into our inner landscape as never before, especially on how our associated memory and subconscious operate when it comes to making decisions. We have a conformational bias, in that we will look for reasons to move ahead based upon what we already wanted while ignoring, even self-evident, reasons not to.
To address that concern, there are a variety of decision-making tools and techniques to use, in addition to the multiple ways to view the process as either directive, analytical, conceptual, and behavioral. Which one to use? Which one fits my personality?
One definition of the discernment is the ability to separate what is important from what is not – irrelevant or misleading. It is both a skill and a methodology. In decision-making, we ask, "Is this option more consistent with who I am?”
The Lasallian and Ignatian discernment way adds, “Where am I called to be of greatest service for others?”
An Integrative Way of Proceeding - Discernment
An Ignatian way for decision-making is integrative since it takes into account the head and heart. It is deciding between several ‘good’ options, in knowing what we are good at and love to do, while seeking to achieve self-knowledge and greater freedom.
We are invited to reflect on the matter, noticing the interplay of reason, affect and experience in our decision-making process. We sift through our thoughts and feelings, while using reason to carefully weigh the pros and cons, facts and factors and how such a decision matches with our values.
When the head and heart align - harmonize, we will feel enlivened and generally at peace. When experience what Ignatius called consolation, it is an indication we may proceed with that decision.
It requires a discipline of contemplation.
We each have a unique gift and call that no one else can fill.
In looking back at past decisions seemed to be a fit - what was that moment? that final moment when you realized something was just for you. Remember it, savor it and look for it again.
FOUR STEPS OF DISCERNMENT
PRELUDE: Seek your better self for inner freedom - by practicing the daily Examen
o Address inordinate desires, and rearrange disordered priorities
o List all facts (+) and (–) for each option
o Gain outside advice
o Look for inner clarity
o Listen for those inner movements leading towards consolation - sense of peace, a contentment. This is where God is leading you.
o If having inner conflict
DESIRES - look deep within for those inner desires, cherish them, then gently put them aside.
o Set aside your preferences (attachments) -such allows you to become 'indifferent' to them. Also put aside the should of's, could of's, or would of's.
o Now let God take the lead.
3. HARMONY - Listening within the heart.
o Imagine the two outcomes – DREAM - spend time in imagination.
Listen for those inner movements leading towards consolation - God's loving tug
o When harmony between head and heart aligns = Chose that one - It is where you feel most alive!
3. GREATEST SERVICE
o If still neutral, or no indication
o Go with the greater option - align with your VALUES - Best Judgement
o Seek a confirmation in a revisit
Weighing Pros & Cons
o Objective - Reason
o Subjective - Feelings
o Values - Insight
Seek Deepest Desires
Harmony of Head and Heart
Ignatian: How God speaks through our interior movement – thoughts, feelings, desires
St. Ignatius of Loyola realized from his personal experience and also in working with others that we have a deep well of self-serving irrationalities and biases that can and do affect our decision-making. He knew the most critical element needed for good decision-making was to know one's end goal, and that every decision was a means towards that end, or not. He saw the need to be free from those biases, he called attachments, in order to discover the path forward that best fit us.
For Ignatius, his end goal was to love and serve God in all that he did. Such an end goal encompassed who he was, whose he was, and how he was to be and act. Every decision was weighed against that end. For Ignatius, he believed our deepest desire is what points towards our ultimate desired end.
He also believed that the heart gives a sounder and deeper understanding of God than our minds do. Yet, he needed to know how to determine if a particular decision would serve that end goal in finding God's desire for him. And what was needed was clarity - from those self-serving irrationalities and, more importantly, to be aware of one's inordinate desires and disordered attachments that hinder one's freedom to respond to that call.
He used imagination and tested his interior senses. Saint Ignatius realized that the peace and joy he felt when imagining life as Jesus' disciple was a sure sign that was the choice he should make to give the greatest glory to God through all he did. He called that inner peace, a gift of consolation. Those producing a disquieting - a desolation, he saw as pointing away from what he was called desolation.
He tested every potential decision by these inner movements.