The Importance of Discernment

What do we do when pursuing our vision becomes difficult? This is an important question, because there’s no doubt about it — sometimes things will feel just plain hard.

When looking at this situation, there seems to be a spectrum of opinion, marked by two endpoints. On the one end are people who feel that if there’s the slightest bit of difficulty, they shouldn’t continue — that the challenges they face are a message indicating that they should pursue another path. On another end are people who continue to plug away for years, continuing to pour time, money, and energy into the path that they feel is theirs. Sometimes that path leads to victory — as it did in the case of Thomas Edison’s toil to invent the lightbulb. Sometimes that path leads to bankruptcy and burn-out. So the big question is, How do we discern when the difficulties indicate that we’re meant to truly stop, and when we’re meant to persevere?

Like all important questions, this one has no easy answers. But there are a few things we can do to begin the discernment process. The first one is a mental exercise: to ask ourselves what we’re learning in this process, to see our challenges as offering feedback, not failure.

A second exercise is physical; to check in with ourselves about how well we’re taking care of our bodies. Are we getting enough rest, movement, nourishment? Do we need to just take some time to rejuvenate, or to tend to low blood sugar?

How’s our emotional state? Are we too attached to our way of doing things, our opinions about how something should be done? Is there any anger, fear, pride or resentment driving our activities?

Most importantly, how often do we stop to pray, meditate and re-connect with the Divine for guidance? There is a great opening that occurs when we simply surrender. As Mother Teresa once said, “We must empty ourselves to be filled with God. Even God cannot fill what is full.”

May we increase our powers of discernment as we work to create our highest visions for our lives. May we take the time to learn and rejuvenate; may we be willing to simply stop and surrender.

—Rev. Maggie Oman Shannon

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