Developing Discernment

Discernment is the key to spiritual growth and masculine vitality.

Readership: Christians
Author’s Note: This post had some input from RedPillApostle. His contributions are in blue.
Special Note: Today marks Σ Frame’s 4th year on WordPress.
Length: 2,700 words
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Introduction

This month’s theme has been about Faith and Maturity, and readers have probably noticed that I spilled a lot of virtual ink talking about abstract ideals, godliness, love, and especially discernment, and how small adjustments in the approach of these things can affect our lives. To be honest, the outcome of postings for this month are different from the schedule of topics that I had planned, and this is because I gained some new insights as the discussion progressed, and so I shifted the content focus in order to better cover the ideas that were revealed to me/us.

Clearing Up the Confusion about Discernment

A reader sent me an email to ask about discernment. He writes,

“First, I really have enjoyed reading about your experience and your thoughts [On the Discernment of Desire (2021-09-24)], but I can’t help but bristle/cringe at the use of discernment as the word used to describe things. Maybe it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the word and it’s use in an evangelical/churchianity context, but it really rubs my fur the wrong way. According to the dictionary, discernment is just good judgement, but that’s not really how it gets used in Christian contexts. Well, not how I react to it.”

The reader has correctly identified the confusion surrounding the term. People think discernment is something akin to judgment, and the English dictionary affirms this notion. But the Christian concept of discernment is not related to judgment. It has nothing to do with decision making or legal jurisprudence. Discernment is NOT a faculty of the mind as it is presumed to be by people, including most Christians. It is a sense of awareness in one’s heart and soul. If the Bible speaks of faith to the ears of our heart, then discernment informs our faith through the eyes of our heart. This analogy gives new meaning to Ephesians 1:17-19 (NASB), where the Apostle Paul prays…

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the boundless greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might…”

Despite many references in the scriptures, the development and exercise of discernment is something that is almost entirely neglected in the modern church.

The Bible also has many chapters that convey the value of wisdom and this is related to discernment. Wisdom involves knowing how things will turn out before it happens, and thereby allow one to be able to make good value judgments, and make appropriate decisions that further one’s purposes. Discernment is absolutely necessary for exercising wisdom. Without discernment (or else a lifetime of experience), it is impossible to know how things will turn out, given different contexts, situations, and environments. In fact, discernment is central to one’s spiritual growth, and without it, it is very difficult to exercise faith, and therefore to grow in faith.

How to Develop Discernment

A previous post listed 8 Things that Increase Discernment (2021-06-25). But although these things certainly help, ultimately, discernment is a gift from God.

Lastmod recognized this dependence on God when he wrote,

“…many things we desire… sometimes we just cannot attain or have, no matter what we do. Maybe its gaining some wisdom of age… or what Jack mentioned in the post [On the Discernment of Desire]. In the Christian sense…. I learned that the “gift of discernment” is something not everyone has.

Yes, discernment is something not everyone has, but it is available to us if we ask God.  James 1:5 states,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

The key to understanding scripture passages about wisdom lies in the recognition that wisdom is about exercising discernment, and not about being street smart. The way to pursue wisdom is to develop one’s discernment. If God is to grant one wisdom, He must first impart discernment.

In my experience, I prayed for wisdom for many years, and never got much of any. But after a few weeks of praying for discernment, I started to have “spidey senses” — impressions that suggested the mythical significance of people and things as set within the grander scheme of divine order. I saw the world entirely differently. Only after experiencing these changes was I able to understand that wisdom is not an intellectual pursuit.

If anyone is still confused about what discernment is, I urge you to read the post, On the discernment and wisdom of true morality (2019-02-02). This post might help you understand that discernment is one’s ability to sense the spiritual essence of things, and knowing right from wrong.

Most importantly, you must pray diligently for God to grant you this power of discernment, and you will see for yourself what I am talking about.

Discerning the Nature of Sin and Grace

Continuing on with an excerpt from the aforementioned reader’s email, he mentions how the church has departed from the entire paradigm of prodigality and grace.

Novaseeker wrote,

…the central Christian concept of sin and grace is that one’s prodigality is a function of one being alive.

This is certainly a lost idea. I won’t speculate where the idea originated, but I see an idea present in Christianity today that goes something like this: “I engage with the trappings of Christianity, I go to church, listen to contemporary Christian music on the radio, I have a fish bumper sticker, I go to prayer breakfasts, I’m in a small group, I read all the books from the parachurch ministries, [therefore] I’m a good Christian. Aside from the occasional lapse to gossip/have poor self-esteem/curse/be proud/look at porn, I’m leading a righteous life.”

Yes, it is easy to miss the effects of sin and the need for grace in churchian circles. This is why we call it churchianity.

He follows with an insightful analogy of sin.

However, what if man’s righteousness is like infinity?  In mathematics, there are levels of infinity, so while the set of integers is infinite, the set of real numbers is much larger. What if, we are sinners in every minute of every day of our entire lives, but by our best efforts we become like the set of integers instead of being like the set of real numbers?

I like this mathematical analogy of sin. I think it’s applicable and accurate.

Maybe the reason to avoid sin is because the work of doing so is supposed to bring us closer to God.

He’s on to something there. In general, sin undermines the Lord’s work.

Perhaps then, the trappings of Christianity are more for show, or are to avoid doing the real work. Which is more pleasing to God?  Serving at the homeless shelter or the prayer breakfast?  I don’t know, but I have an opinion.

The thing is, I’m no great shakes as a Christian. Most of the time, my practice is only marginally more than nominal, but I’m not fooling myself either, and sometimes, that’s the best I can do.

Anyway, I’m glad you have this blog. It’s a nice place to be.

Thanks~!

The church has done a good job at making us believe that “doing God’s work” means to live a clean life and serve in some capacity at church. But a better concept of “doing God’s work” would be glorifying God, and doing that which brings others to know God better and become more spiritually mature. Sin is then clearly seen as bad because it works against these goals.

It takes a bit of discernment to identify what kinds of sin fall under “common grace” and are “normal”, and which kinds of sin are upsetting to God’s work and the shalom of the community. These two kinds of sin, and the “sin unto death” as mentioned in 1 John 5:16-18, is one of the most disputed topics in the New Testament. But a well-honed discernment can brush aside these philosophical arguments to reveal the true nature of the thing, and what should be done about it.

For example, men who are tentative about taking action need encouragement.  They need to better understand masculinity and the behavior that flows from it.  Men who are mature in faith should identify those men who have this hesitancy as someone who needs attention and guidance. This is doing the Lord’s work.

If we want to be a stickler about sin, then we could say it is a sin to not take action, as this would lead to one’s own demise (maybe even spiritual death?), but OTOH, it is also a sin to not teach and encourage one who doesn’t take action, because this would be neglecting the Lord’s work.

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

James 4:17 (NKJV)

Of course, discernment will make one increasingly aware of the good he can do, so with this power come both privileges and responsibilities – another trait of masculinity.

Embracing One’s Role of Masculine Authority Increases Discernment

As mentioned in the previous section, discernment allows a man to exercise greater masculine authority, but it works both ways too. Pursuing a Biblical mindset of masculinity creates the context in which discernment can grow.

A man must have a vision of how things should be, and he should be making choices to improve himself as a man in accordance with enacting that vision.

The clarity of thinking about situations from a masculine viewpoint is revolutionary at a personal level.  It allows one to know right away what to say to address any situation that might come up.  For a moment, you feel apprehension before responding, but part of masculinity is dealing head on with those feelings and doing what you believe is right. We all fail at times, but having a male friend to point out the mistake and encourage you as you struggle to improve is part of what makes relationships with men who care about you so important.  It also adds context that indicates right away the tenet of what other’s responses mean in terms of their values and spiritual disposition.  Embracing this mindset causes a man to become passionate, conscious about life being short, having no guaranteed tomorrows, and living out his purpose.

From a Christian standpoint, a man must understand how the Bible sets up the authority hierarchy in marriage. The authority belongs to the husband because the responsibility for the family is ultimately his and God will hold him accountable for what he does with what He gave him (wife, children, assets, etc.). This is headship, and the first step in enforcing headship is to act like you have the authority in marriage that God gave you, because you do. If a boss tells you what to do, or if you tell a subordinate what to do, there is an expectation that it will get done. This calm expectation that your instructions will be followed is the mindset and attitude that reinforces authority. Adopting and putting this mindset into action is the first step, and this works with most basic instructions for what you want done.

Having this mindset allows a man to discern his wife’s words and responses in terms of how submissive or rebellious she is to his directives. This is important, because if a man does not respond appropriately to his wife’s behaviors, then his misguided actions will probably create additional discord in the marriage and he will fail in loving and moulding her properly.

Case Study – Caterpillar prefers eating fresh Apples

Caterpillar345 wrote this personal story in a comment.

I had an experience recently that might be an example of setting and defending a boundary or expectation. I was driving on a road trip and had my sister along riding shotgun. I asked for an apple and as she grabbed it out of the bag to hand it to me, she took a bite out of it, presumably as a playfully annoying little sister prank. I decided at that moment I didn’t want 90% of an apple, I wanted a whole apple, so I refused to take it. She refused to eat it and hand me a different apple with refrains of “There’s nothing wrong with it, just eat it!” I continued to press the issue and our back and forth was causing both of us to laugh because of how silly and petty it was. Between gasps of laughter, I accused her of being manipulative and she accused me of being petty. I didn’t really care that the apple had a bite out of it and was perfectly willing to eat it, but I realized I had drawn an arbitrary boundary and now had to defend it or risk losing respect in a small way, even with my sister. I also realized that if I continued to press the issue without resolving it somehow (or allowing for a resolution), the amused laughter between us would soon turn into hurt feelings and petty resentment (which there is plenty of history with in our family). So I decided I would take it if she would apologize for being a mean little sister. After a few protests from her and some additional laughter between us she offered what sounded like a sincere apology and I took the apple. We came away from it with laughter, a good story, and a little inside joke about “the small things in life.”

Who knows if it really meant anything — it was just an apple after all — but it seemed significant to me in some small way. I know based on other words and actions from her prior to and since this example that she respects me as her brother. But it nevertheless seemed like a growth opportunity for me in a small way.

Caterpillar’s story is a great example of exercising frame, and it is also a simple way to exchange love. We might be tempted to regard his response as petulant or childish, but that would be a disservice to the authentic expression of desire. He made his wishes evident and he told his sister what he wanted, and this is very important for a man. This is where discernment and Christian love enters into the picture. As Caterpillar notes, if he had not recognized the potential impact of extending his diatribe, and continued to demand his way without offering a resolution to the micro-crisis (which interestingly came in the form of another demand), then this would not have comprised a love-filled interaction and it would culminate in antipathy. We might be tempted to dismiss wanting an undefiled apple as a small thing, but it’s the small things like this that count. Older people have often told me that when they look back on their lives, they remember the little things, not the big things. The proof of all I have written in this paragraph is that it made the trip fun and memorable, and it strengthened Caterpillar’s relationship with his sister. The fact that it is memorable makes this a moment of eternal life.* If a man makes a regular habit of doing things like this, it will definitely lead to more confidence and a stronger frame in the future.

* Eternal means that it is not confined to 4-D space and time, but reaches into the 5-D spiritual domain.

Conclusions

In summary, men must exhume the masculine frame. A man should have a clear vision. He needs to make hard decisions and take action. Having spiritual discernment and exercising wisdom are essential to making everything work together and progress towards his ends.

With these attitudes and tools at their disposal, men have the context to begin exercising discernment, as displayed by Caterpillar, RedPillApostle, and the reader who sent me the email — and both awareness and progress can grow better with prayer and diligence, respectively.

Men need this because the side effect of improving yourself and striving for a vision is becoming more attractive to women.  It’s not the goal, but it is a benefit. 

Related

In addition to these posts that directly address the topic of discernment, there are a number of other posts on Σ Frame that convey elements of discernment and wisdom. I encourage readers interested in discernment to browse through these posts while asking the question, “How is discernment necessarily involved in this process?”

But to do that, you need to have discernment. So you’d better pray first!

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
This entry was posted in Answered Prayers, Attitude, Churchianity, Collective Strength, Conflict Management, Decision Making, Desire, Desire, Passion, Determination, Discerning Lies and Deception, Discernment, Wisdom, Discipline, Fundamental Frame, Headship and Patriarchy, Holding Frame, Influence, Introspection, Leadership, Love, Male Power, Maturity, Personal Growth and Development, Models of Success, Moral Agency, Personal Presentation, Persuasion, Power, Prayer, Prophecy, Purpose, Relationships, Self-Concept, SMV/MMV, The Power of God. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Developing Discernment

  1. redpillboomer says:

    My walking around definition of discernment is “My awareness of the context I’m currently operating in (the environment surrounding me), coupled with my ability to read/interpret what is going on around me (connect the dots/read between the lines/pick up the subtle cues/etc.” Also, I have enough life experience built up to where my brain seems to go to a subconscious place that resembles something like this, “Where have I seen this before, or seen something like it?” A bit of a Deja vu if you will.

    Discernment then is something along the lines of being able to see and interpret what’s going on around me. It also seems to give me the response I choose as to what to do with it, the insight that is. Sometimes the choice is to do nothing but go “Hmm…” (go into an inquiry about it, think about it, noodle on it); or just enjoy it, like enjoy it in “It’s so cool to be able to see this!” A heightened level of discernment, I’ll call it super level discernment, is when I have a heightened understanding of what’s going on inside of me.

    Just noodling around with this subject a bit here. That’s what you do on a blog, right? It makes for an interesting inquiry. Let’s see what others say about discernment. One thing I think we could all agree on, whatever discernment is exactly, it’s a good thing to have in life. Generally speaking, the more of it, the better; although, I guess too much of it in certain areas can lead to negative reactions inside of ourselves like anger, bitterness, frustration, etc. Don’t know, just noodling around here.

    Like

    • Jack says:

      RPB, thanks for sharing your own experience with discernment.

      “Let’s see what others say about discernment.”

      I imagine that everyone who has developed a conscious sense of discernment has a different experience with it, in terms of what specifically they can discern, how it appears to them, and the subjective experience of it all. This month, I wrote about my own experiences with discernment, partly to convince inexperienced readers that it’s a real thing, and partly in the hope that experienced readers would follow suit and share their own experiences of discernment so that we could get a feel of the spread of these differences. But since I started writing on this subject, only one commenter has described his own experience. (See here.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ed Hurst says:

    In my churchian background, the word “discernment” was treated like a very special religious term to signify being able to sense the presence of demons/angels, etc. Granted, that is one of the meanings in the New Testament — “the gift of discernment of spirits” — but it’s not restricted to that. My wife uses the spiritual gift, but admits to having trouble discerning the larger moral picture that I can typically see quite clearly in most situations.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Pingback: A Volitional Model of Cascade Courtship | Σ Frame

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