Let’s face it, the devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cap, wearing pointy horns and brandishing a pitch fork. More often than not, the evil in our life shows up looking like a dream come true. A dream that is, well, too good to be true. The difference between recognizing what is right for us and what is almost right comes down to discernment. Our ability to look hard at the situations and opportunities before us and thoughtfully – even prayerfully – considering the options (and their impact) before we act.
For many, the ability to discern, carefully, comes with time-tested wisdom and experience. A strong upbringing, where right and wrong are clearly modeled, can be a great help in learning how to evaluate the decisions life puts in our path. But solid parenting and guidance isn’t enough; discernment comes with the wisdom and experience that life – and a few wrong choices – will bring. Until we know the pain and impact of choosing the impostor called almost we will never be able to take the time to weigh out and identify the real.
What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.
Being a person of discernment requires paying attention. It takes listening to the unspoken words that fill your relationships. It is taking time to observe how the actions of others align to their own testaments of integrity and intention. It is listening, closely, to that small quiet voice that often speaks the loudest. It is knowing that when it all just isn’t adding up, it is time to start taking away the distractions.
One the hardest – and most important – characteristics of discernment is the ability to say no. To walk away. To lean into everything you know to be true and choicefully wait. To know that good is not enough when great is still around the corner. When you are a goal-oriented person, seeking an outrageously wonderful life, saying no is hard. It feels like you are turning down opportunity or choosing to sit on the sideline. We want to do more, be more, say yes more, not ever miss an opportunity.
It takes strength, maturity and intentional choices to be willing and able to say no. This ability, even just understanding the importance of this ability, is hard to learn. But oh, so necessary.
Along the pathway of life, do not settle. Don’t kid yourself into settling for the almost right, or the good enough. Listen to what is not being said – to that whisper in your thoughts – that is gently telling you to wait. Wait for the right partner, the right job, the right college acceptance, just wait. If you listen with discernment, you will always know.