For me, the fourth step in the discernment process involves PEOPLE — my faith community.
This is less of a “next step” than an ongoing process throughout.
I share and process with other people and listen to their insights, questions, suggestions and ideas.
Because we make better decisions in community.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people saved from terrible decisions by their community of faith — or have seen people pursue great opporunities because they were encouraged by their community of faith.
When I talk and process with people, not all people are equal in terms of the usefulness of their input.
For example, some people have secret agendas (often not that secret). These people are not that helpful.
I remember in college, as I was trying to discern what I was going to do after graduation, I had two mentors with a campus ministry who I loved. But they were so convinced that I was supposed to go on staff with their organization, they were completely unhelpful in my discernment process. In fact, they were somewhat manipulative and a negative source of help during the process. Avoid people who have an agenda for you.
Some people are so risk-averse that asking their advice is like asking an insurance agent what to do — you are always safer doing nothing and safety is the only metric they care about. I also avoid these people.
Who do I look for?
People who know me, love me, and are genuinely for me — or at least 70% invested in me.
I also look for people who have the spiritual gifts of WISDOM, DISCERNMENT and ENCOURAGEMENT.
People with WISDOM have the ability to ask just the right question that can really clarify some aspect of the decision-making process.
People with DISCERNMENT have the ability to sense the spiritual realities behind the decisions being made and are often the ones who can ask really good questions about motivations, etc. As much as I would like to think I am always pure of heart and have pure motivations, that is not always true. I need some good discernment people around me who can ask penetrating questions. Without them, I am often tempted to choose the safe or easy path… or the path that will lead to the most verbal affirmation (which can be a vicious cycle!)
People with ENCOURAGEMENT give me the courage to pursue God’s best vision for me. It is amazing how deflating and discouraging some people are when you present ideas to them… it is soul-killing! But encouragers increase your courage and it is soul-feeding!