What is Discernment?

Discernment, on the most basic level, is about differentiating my will versus God’s will,” JT Dorr-Bremme explains. Although it often takes place within the whole of a Quaker meeting, or among members of a committee, it can be as simple as one Friend turning to another for help thinking through an important decision.

“It’s an incredible gift—it gives a person a sense of really being attended to, that what they say matters. And that’s an act of love, that giving of oneself in terms of time and attention and saying, ‘I care about what you have to say, and I’m going to put my whole being into hearing what that is.'”

For JT, the collaborative nature of discernment offers great hope for creating social bonds and breaking down divisions. “It doesn’t require agreement,” he says. “It just requires listening.… If we could give that gift to each other, I really believe that we would be better off.

4 thoughts on “What is Discernment?

  1. Great Quakerspeak! Thoughts on JT’s discussion question. My question before watching is ‘what are we trying to discern: the will of God or the best decision?’ The speaker answers this right way – we are trying to discern the will of God. He goes on to give an excellent and moving account of the listening and discernment process. But – how to we conceive of the ‘will of God’? Is it the will of a conscious being or entity who has a preference for one particular decision or another? Or – do we conceive of the ‘will of God’ as an aspect of God as a spirit – perhaps the spirit of love & compassion so that we are seeking the decision most reflective of a loving spirit? Do these questions make any difference? That is – do you reach the same result either way? Does it make a difference in the tenor of the conversational process? That is – Is it easier to have a conversation / consideration of the most loving response than it is the ‘will of God’? The whole process of ‘discernment’ involves something beyond making a wise business decision as it involves complex considerations of how certain values are to expressed?
    Jim Cain

  2. I felt this was a great video. There was one high point for me – at about 2:30, there is 30-40 seconds on finding god’s voice within us and naming it, listening to it. I loved all of it, but given the title of discernment, I expected more about God’s role in the speaking and listening between us. I love the definition i once heard of “discernment” as “going to the place where God makes things clear.” That is what i heard at 2:30 in this video.

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