Step 26 - On Discernment
Discernement is the ability to know God’s will in every situation; to know how to do battle in the spiritual life; and to understand all the schemes of the devils.
St. John discusses three levels of discernment in the spiritual life and how discernment develops in our lives.
- Beginners – self-knowledge.
-What does this mean? The phrase “Know Thyself” comes from Greek philosophy, but what do the Fathers mean by this?
- Knowing yourself is not necessarily a pleasant enterprise. It is a honest self-evaluation that results in repentance, mourning, and humility. It an acute awareness of ones weaknesses, sins, and tendencies to sin.
- Midway – know the difference between good and evil in every situation. This does not just refer to ethical dilemmas that may seem gray, but our interaction in the battle for our soul. We begin to see and understand the schemes of the devil.
- Perfect – to be so illumined by God that you are able to illumine others. This is not just referring to the ability of good advice, but the ability to help someone actualize God’s grace, to be transformed, to be released from the bondage of their own sins.
General Advice toward purity: Destroy gluttony, vainglory, and avarice then you will destroy lust, despondency, pride, dejection, anger.
Demons plan to thwart purity which leads to discernment, and our battle plan:
1. Impede spiritual achievement. Strategy: zeal for God and remembrance of Death.
2. Act against God’s will. Strategy: obedience & humility.
3. Vainglory. Strategy: unceasing self-condemnation.
Other advice in the battle: Be watchful when physically sick for the attack on your soul. Watch the motives for your actions.
A life of prayer is essential in the battle for purity. St. John gives advice on how we respond to prayer in the context of the struggle for purity. What does it mean when God delays answer your cry for help?
1. God's answer would be premature.
2. We are praying from wrong motives primarily vainglory
3. If answered it would lead us to more sin.