What role does our family have in our vocational discernment? Ideally, an important one.
(For those who fear family will oppose their vocational discernment, you can read my previous post here, responding to concerns several readers raised.)
As I mentioned previously in response to a question, our vocational discernment greatly affects our family, and most of us desire to remain close to our family. In addition, we care about what our loved ones think, especially when we need another perspective on our strengths, weaknesses, and suitability for a particular vocation. At the same time, our call from God is sacred, and our discernment shouldn’t be influenced by familial pressures and undue attachments.
We want to share our vocational discernment with our family in such a way that it will promote the most freedom and wisdom in our discernment. A lot depends on whether our family members share our faith, our desire to seek God’s will, and the kind of selfless love that seeks what is best for us apart from self-interest. Our role in the family is also crucial. In some cases, our family’s dependence on us may be an important factor in our vocational discernment, for example, elderly parents or siblings who are much younger who depend on us because our parents aren’t able to support their basic needs.
Here are a few guidelines that can help us to know how and when to share our vocational discernment with our family.
1) Discerning our vocation is sacred. In many cases, our initial steps in our discernment are private. We need to start thinking through possibilities, come to know our own feelings and desires without others’ expectations or concerns, listen in the quiet of our hearts to God’s invitation. Especially when we are discerning something new, we are uncomfortable or unsure sharing about it, it is advisable to discern privately and wait to share it with family and friends.
2) Our families are God’s great gift to us and are a huge part of our lives. When we are ready to start sharing about our vocational discernment, and when we need advice from those who know us well, it’s often very helpful to talk about our vocational discernment openly with our family. In doing so, we build up our family love and unity, and also set a good foundation for how we will relate with our family as we follow our vocation. Ideally, we want our family to be involved with our discernment fairly early on, so that:
- They will understand why we make the choice that we do
- They can learn about our vocational choice as we do (e.g., getting to know about religious life, or getting to know our future spouse)
- We don’t block them from being part of one of the most important decisions of our lives
At the same time, we don’t want to let our family members’ private agendas drive our discernment. So, for example, deciding not to get married simply because a sibling or parent will miss us too much or might need us in the future, is allowing others to have undue influence on our vocation. Instead, our priority is to listen to God. God is not only our Creator who gifted us with our lives, God is the One who loves us most and has the best—perfect!—plan for us. Above all other pressures and expectations, we want to listen to God’s invitation.