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5 Discernment Methods

We know, we know, discernment can sometimes seem like a buzzword once you have heard it enough times from your professor who wrote your letter of recommendation, the Jesuit priest you spoke with after mass, or even a JVC staff member you just spoke to. JVC wanted to offer you 5 discernment methods to spice things up a bit! We hope they help you continue exploring next steps in the spirit of discernment.

1. Have thorough knowledge of your options

Discernment involves choosing between two or more options. While we will never have all the information, gathering and sifting through everything we know regarding the various options is crucial to making a good decision. So, why not learn more? Knowledge is power(ful).

2. Spend time in prayer reflecting on your freedom to accept or reject those options

To know and follow God’s will means that we are aware of the forces in our lives that keep us from
making and carrying out our commitments. If this method of discernment were to be strewn throughout a top 40 pop song there’d be lyrics about freedom, breaking free of chains, relationships and attachments that might be clouding or fogging our potential for discovering our true selves. For you, this may mean those material or psychological attachments, health issues, addictions, self-image, or fears that sneak up on  you in moments where being present are most difficult. They are also some of the factors that can keep us from being free to choose the right path. What are some of those things for you?

3. Be sure to rationally and affectively weigh your “Pros and Cons”

The process of discernment involves both “using one’s head”” and “trusting one’s feelings.”  One needs the capacity to understand, reason logically, compare, and weigh different considerations and form judgments based on rational arguments.  Equally important, however, is the ability to listen to our feelings, our “heart,” in that process of weighing the advantages and disadvantages of various considerations.

4. Pay attention to your “great desires” that arise during the process

Discernment is a way of sifting through our desires and passions, so that our lives may be shaped by the best of them.  Our “great desires” put us in tune with God’s desires and express what God wants us to become. In the academic world or a TED Talk conversation on this method of discernment, there is likely to be a whole conversation about emotional intelligence and where we’re at as individuals, where we’d like to be at, and how an experience like JVC could provide the support and the transformation we’re looking for in our lives, mind and spirits.

5. Take note of your experience of confirmation or its opposite–your feelings of doubt and confusion

After one makes a decision, either a feeling of “rightness” or peace confirms that decision, or one can feel more confused, unsure, doubting the choice made.  If the latter occurs, continue to prayer for clarity and light. This is where imaginative discernment or in the world of psychology, role play might help to distill what is holding you back from making a firm decision and how you might see your way through it all.



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In a culture that values what people have over what they give, JVC is an opportunity to commit to the dignity and well being of others and let faith ignite in action. Download a mini-discernment retreat to help you decide if you’re ready for year or two with JVC.