4 Steps for Discernment and Decision-Making

Part 2 in a 3-part series on discernment: 4 Steps for Discernment and Decision-Making

In the article What is discernment?, spiritual director Sister Mary McDevitt, IHM, led us through understanding discernment, consolations, and desolations. When discerning and having to make a significant decision, it’s important to be aware your own inner spirit which is where God dwells within you. In this article, Sister Mary takes us through concrete steps to help us figure out how God is calling us. She uses the discernment question example, “Should I go to graduate school or not?”

Now, let’s get practical.

Are there steps I can take once I am more aware of my inner spirit?

1. Pray

  • I pray and stay in the presence of God often.
  • I ask God to give me freedom of spirit.
  • I try to say to God, “Whatever choice is your will, it’s ok with me.”
  • When I lift up each choice to God — e.g., about going to graduate school — I notice what my heart says. I check out my thoughts, too, and the long-range consequences of this action.

2. Write down two columns for each choice

  • I line up the pros and cons of the situations. Two columns on why I would not go to graduate school — the good side (pro), and the not-so-good side (con).
  • Then I do the same with the reverse: the pros and cons of going to grad school.
  • I pray over the list and see which reasons are most moving, most serious and which affect my relationships with other people.
  • One expert suggests: Be on your death-bed and ask which choice you would be glad you made.
  • For Christians: Bring the decision and kneel under the Cross of Christ. How does it make sense there? Will this decision bring me closer to Jesus Christ in my living the Gospel?

3. Time for confirmation

  • Once I have made a tentative decision, I talk it over with those who know me.
  • I wait awhile and see if I feel peaceful in this decision as it becomes clearer.

4. Choose, act and be grateful

  • One or many of these steps may guide me. I may wish to do these steps with a spiritual companion.

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