The Most Important Thing To Do When Discerning

The most important thing we can do during our discernment is to listen deeply. Listening is a skill that most of us can improve in, as we tend to talk more than listen. Even if we consider ourselves good listeners with our friends and family, we may still need to learn an attitude of listening in our every day life. In “3D listening,” we seek to listen to God who speaks to us and invites us through:

  • our lives and our whole being (our thoughts, feelings, gifts, limitations, desires, past and present)
  • the people in our lives (including their needs)
  • the “voice” and needs of the community
  • the Church
  • the guidance of a mentor or guide
  • our circumstances
  • the world around us (including the needs of the world)

A really helpful tool for 3D listening is the examen, which we’ll look at in the next post. But one of the keys to learning how to listen more deeply to our lives is to make time and space in our lives to listen.

We will find it very difficult—if not impossible—to listen deeply if we:

  • are constantly running from one thing to the next
  • don’t make time in our day or week for reflection or a meditative/contemplative prayer
  • don’t take time to genuinely relax regularly
  • don’t create quiet moments in our day or week (e.g. our lives are filled with constant “noise” — the radio is always on in the car, the TV is always on in the home, we can’t take a walk without headphones, we are always on the phone with friends, etc.)
  • neglect to put smart limits around our media use (e.g. we never “unplug,” we don’t take breaks from twitter, work email, news updates, etc., or we’re always listening to music or talk radio)
  • work excessively (e.g. workaholism, always being “on call,” or being so absorbed in our work that we only think of ourselves in terms of what we “do” and not who we are)

Many of these obstacles are easy to overcome, depending on our personality and our circumstances. Because of the culture we live in, many people don’t even think about creating quiet in their lives, and yet when they do, they find it can make a big difference in their awareness and appreciate of the beauty of their own lives.

Listening to God is possible only when we take time to pray and nurture our relationship with God. To do that, we need to create occasional (or regular) oases of serenity and quiet. Even the way we pray can prevent us from deeper listening, if we do all the talking and we don’t take time to listen.

Listening prayer can be as simple as starting or concluding our daily prayer with a few moments of quiet, doing lectio divina, or checking in with God and ourselves at the end of the day using the examen.


  • Which obstacles to listening do you struggle with?
  • Choose one way to improve your listening and start doing it today.

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