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“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis


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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Discernment, Truth and Judgment

I have written about discernment on my blog a few times, but mostly about teaching our children to be discerning, regarding what they read or what they listen to.  I posted HERE and HERE on that topic. 
Today, I'd like to write about our own discernment.
Discernment means:
from the "free dictionary":The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment. 2. Keenness of insight and judgment. discernment

From GTY.org:
Biblical Discernment In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong.

from Merriman Webster:
the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure

from dictionary reference.com:

the faculty of discerning; discrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding

and finally from Vocabulary.com:
Discernment is the ability to make a smart judgment about something. If you're voting for Student Council President, you need to use discernment to pick the best candidate.

If you notice, discernment has a close relationship with judgment, based upon truth.
We make judgment calls all the time!  All of us do.  It gives a picture in mind of the Olympic rings. They are separate, yet blend together.

We judge if bananas are too ripe to purchase.  Will we eat them before they rot? 

We make judgment calls all the time regarding reading materials, movies, and even friends.
Is this somebody I want to spend time with?  Will this person effect my family is a positive way?
For instance, if a pedophile, just released from prison, who claims he has changed, were to knock on our door and ask to spend the night, we might want to be DISCERNING and say, no.

Is that making a JUDGMENT? Yes it is.  Is it judging a person directly, with the attitude of " you are lower than me you scumbag?"  No. it is not.  We can be kind and loving towards somebody, but also discern.

Does this type of discernment or judgment, put us up on a pedestal of self love and perfection, and place the lowly other person beneath the ground, into the ground and all judged to death?  No. And it had better not! We are all sinners and our standing before the Lord is ONLY because of His mercy and grace in our lives!  There is nothing we can earn.  Our best attempt at righteousness is as a dirty wrag, when held up to the Holiness of God.

If I were to say to that person.... "You know, I am happy that you have made some differences in your life.  Treat them with respect, talk about those differences, share with them, and then put them up in a hotel, where they could get a comfortable night's sleep, that would NOT be judging, but it would be discerning.
If an Alcoholic feels called to minister in Bars, or the pedophile called to minister in a "day care center", or somebody who struggles with stealing, to work as a teller at a bank, it seems it would be ok to question if that were God calling them.

There are all kinds of times that me make discerning, prayerful decisions in our conversations, and in our relationships.

Discernment is also a gift from the Lord, especially when raising our children.  There are times we must discern if an act of snottiness, was stress related, attachment related, hormone related (now that we have 4 teenage girls), or was it just a simple act of  disobedience?

It is HARD to discern sometimes, and many times after much prayer, calming our hearts down, and listening, the answer is right there before us.
The problems come for us as parents when many times behaviors look the same. 
Snottiness is snottiness! 

But is it?

Just as we learn to distinguish, (discern) between a babies cries: Are they hungry? Are they wet?
Are they bored? Are they in pain?
We need to learn to discern and distinguish the root causes of our children's behaviors, and for that fact, the root causes of our own responses to those behaviors!  **** (see bottom of post)

Because sometimes, our reaction to their reaction can be a big ole' reaction that never ends!  OR it can be sorely mistaken, and we can wind up hurting relationships!

It is imperative that relationship remains connected and sought after, even in correction!  As parents, we must be able to share truth, with our children, and not crush them.  At the same time, sometimes our children can be crushed by insecurity, shame, lack of attachment, self judgment (the kind that is NOT true) and self hatred.
That makes it all the more important to break through those defenses to reach our children's hearts.
It will require vulnerability on our own part, sharing with them some snotty thing WE have done, and survived through a time of correction. :)

We can discern, how much a child is prepared for in the area of instruction and then gently stay within those boundaries!   Having a little at a time, with great support afterwards, lots of I care about you's and I love you's..... while keeping  them back in  a place of felt safety is so important!
And it works very well!

As time goes on, and our children have been home for a long time, their window of tolerance (<---- linked) can be wide open, and there is much room for us to relax more.  If When we mess up, it doesn't cause an end of the world catastrophic event under our roof!  We say we are sorry and life goes on.  :)

**** If we are unwilling to look at ourselves, or to admit that we are capable of great wrong, which all of us are, then it will be very hard to be discerning with our children.  We must remember those 3 fingers pointing right back at us, when correcting our children. 
If we are willing to be vulnerable and pour ourselves out to the Lord, or even find support groups to help us, we will be much better able to be in a place of discernment and proper judgment!
And then, we will be able to better parent our children who come from very difficult places!
Growth is hard.  But growth is Good!  The diamond in the rough is hard to get to, and takes much effort.
As parents, we must also be willing to receive correction, or learn new ways to parent. If we are too  proud, or if we don't receive somebody's attempt to help, even if the person isn't perfectly right, but instead dismiss their efforts as judgment... we won't grow.
When I was much younger and our oldest son was 10. I distinctly remember an older woman at our church taking me aside to give me her thought on a way I had corrected my son in public.
He had been told ahead of time not go go into our Sunday School class and get left over donuts. :)
But there he was, and I corrected him, instructing him to go and sit down in the church and wait for me.  It was that "authoratative voice thing"....
This woman was embarrassed for my son, because he was with his friends and all the kids did it!
She didn't know I had already told him.  Her words stung.  But she was RIGHT.  I embarrassed my son, and I am sure it was not her pleasure or determination to cause me pain.  She discerned and made a proper judgement and correctly sought to offer guidance.
I am thankful to her for that, even though it didn't feel so great at the time. Her intention was good.
And God used her in my life.
My guess is, there are a lot of diamonds out there undiscovered, because we are too proud to find them.... both in ourselves and in our children.

Let's choose to find the diamonds in the rough and bring them to a place of shining brightly!

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