The best discernments are those in which the person discerning makes a journey towards interior freedom. In other words, they are no longer constrained by unhealthy attachments to nonessentials—things like others’ opinions, our comfort, or anything other than God’s loving will.
Everything has its place in creation, and God has given us many gifts in order to live fully. When we give a created thing more importance than it deserves, we call that an unhealthy attachment. Unhealthy attachments prevent us from having the freedom to recognize and respond to God’s will.
Here’s a petty (but realistic) personal example: I like sitting in the same place in chapel every day. The prayerbooks that I keep at that place, and the familiar view helps me to enter into prayer. But our chapel is free for everyone to use, and sometimes another person will take the place I usually take. When I find someone sitting there, I pay attention. If I’m mildly irritated because I’m inconvenienced, that’s normal. If however, I become upset because someone took “my place,” then I’ve got a problem. I’ve become attached to a particular spot of a wooden pew. I’ve made it more important than it really is.
As human beings, it’s really easy for us to become too attached to things that really aren’t very important. If you have a favorite book, movie, dessert, or sport, you know this temptation—even if you haven’t given in to it! It’s also easy for us to become unhealthily attached to other people—for example, we can rely too much on what someone else thinks of us. If we enjoy a particular friendship but find ourselves jealous when that friend spends time with someone else, we may have an attachment to our friend that is unhealthy.
The attachments that are hardest for me to recognize, though, are the interior ones—for example, to my own way, opinions, or desires. Certain work by its very nature requires flexibility. If someone cannot be flexible about the way that they work, becoming angry whenever they collaborate with someone else, this is a sign that they could be too attached to their way of doing things. It’s fine to have a preference for a way of doing something, but when we overreact or refuse to try something a new or different way, then it’s possible that we’ve become too attached to our own way. This attachment can prevent us from receiving God’s inspiration.
A disordered attachment to anything or anyone can become an obstacle to freedom because it puts something else in the place of God’s will. Healthy detachment can help us to regain our freedom.
To Pray With
We can begin by listening to Jesus’ words in the Gospel, where Jesus reminds us that where our treasure is, our heart will also be. Pray with Matthew 6: 19-21. What do we treasure in our life? Do we truly treasure our relationship with God above everything else?
NOTE: For the rest of this week, I’m taking a break from blogging to cover Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., and I’d like to encourage you to take a break, too. Let’s truly listen and take in the words of Pope Francis to us! Especially if you are discerning your vocation or a decision about ministry, God may inspire you through the Pope’s words and presence. I’ll return to blogging about discernment after the Pope’s visit, on September 30th.