What Do We Need To Be Freed from To Discern Well?

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One of our biggest obstacles in discerning God’s will in our life is ourselves. Because of original sin—the sin of Adam and Eve which has marked every human being—we are prone to sin. In our discernments, we want to “sort through” our desires, distinguishing between disordered desires which can lead to sin and genuine desires that well up from deep within and reflect our true identity.

Sometimes when we find ourselves in difficult situations, we’ll discover that our main difficulty is really ourselves. We might think that if we just didn’t have to deal with this situation, or this person, or this challenge, we’d be fine. And then we end up in a new situation and we find that it’s not the situation that was the problem, it’s ourselves and how we deal with the situation.

* * *

I remember one time as a younger sister when I found myself in what I thought was a really difficult situation. Another sister and I really clashed, and it made community life really challenging for me. At the end of the year, I was transferred to a new community. At first I was thrilled, thinking everything was great. Then I started running into the exact same difficulties that I had run into before!

Gradually, I realized that although the circumstances of life would never be perfect, what made them unmanageable was me. My particular faults—in this case my high expectations, my desires for perfection, and my impatience with others—were really at the root of my problem in getting along with the other sisters. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a wonderful opportunity to get to know myself better. I realized that sometimes—perhaps more often than I’d like to admit—I am my own worst enemy!

* * *

In discernment, we spend a lot of time seeking greater freedom. (This is why sometimes we need to take a longer time to discern.) In our discernments, we seek freedom:

  • from our ego
  • from our tendency to seek ourselves or to put ourselves ahead of God
  • from our disordered desires
  • from the world’s materialistic and secular perspective
  • from others’ expectations

When Saint John the Baptist was pointing to Christ as the Messiah, he made a wonderful statement that fits this aspect of discernment: “He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). Discernment is about giving Christ and his will for us more and more space in our life, so that our true identity as disciples of Christ can clearly emerge.