Is the art of discernment rapidly becoming a lost skill?
Posted on 15th May 2019 at 08:15
Perhaps it’s a side effect of the ever faster speed of life – or our increasingly reliance on all things technological – but it seems that many basic skills are in danger of being lost forever. Or, as one friend so kindly pointed out, it may just be part of becoming older!
Anyway, before we digress too far, we’re not only talking about practical skills such as wiring plugs, changing a car wheel or actually cooking a meal from scratch at home. But rather the ability to think for ourselves. To reach our own conclusions about any given topic.
In other words, do our own research, weigh up all sides of the argument and then make a decision about it. One that feels “right” for us, regardless of what anyone else may think. Or, perhaps, decide that we don’t have enough information to make a decision one way or the other at the moment and sit on the proverbial fence for the time being.
And, then here’s the really grown up bit. Once we’ve made a decision on whatever it is, being willing to revisit it in light of any new information that may come our way in the future. In many ways, this is the hardest bit.
All too often it leads the Little Monster in our heads shouting very loudly that we must have been “wrong” in some way and will look stupid if we change our minds. Of course, the irony is that we look even more stupid clinging on to outdated decisions and beliefs, long after their sell by date has passed.
While it may require a deep breath, it’s never a case of being “wrong” – however you choose to think of it – but of constantly updating our ideas and beliefs in the light of new information. And, if you stop and think about it for a moment, life is all about change. Nothing stands still. So why do we see still it as such as issue when we change – update – our thinking on any particular subject?
And this is where discernment comes in. It seems such an old fashioned word, perhaps with a hint of religion thrown in for good measure. But what does it really mean?
Well, having taken our equally old fashioned dictionary off the shelf (!), here’s what it says:
“Discernment, the ability to judge well.”
And here are some – slightly longer – online definitions:
“Discernment, the ability to obtain sharp perceptions or to judge well (or the activity of so doing).”
“The ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong.”
“The process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about the truth.”
In the age of sound bites, carefully crafted headlines and short news stories – in whatever form of media you prefer – it’s all too easy to go with the flow. To let someone else do the work for you. Present their chosen set of “facts” and “conclusions”. To be swayed by our favourite – or trusted – presenters or source of information; whether on the television news or something else.
So, here’s a radical thought. Just because someone is wearing a suit, has a plethora of qualifications, does a certain job or appears on a certain programme it doesn’t automatically make them “right” on any given topic. However, neutral and unbiased they may initially appear, they are simply providing their opinion on their chosen set of information.
And, yes, we appreciate that this may sound rather harsh, but no one is ever truly objective on anything. We are all swayed by our experience and beliefs, however much we may like to think otherwise.
So, what are we suggesting?
That we should trust no one and live our lives in a permanent state of cynicism and mistrust?
Of course not.
Instead, it’s about reaching our own conclusions in our own time about any given subject. Yes, listening to what others have to say about it, but then making up our own minds after having done a little research of our own. While we may be out of the habit of using it, we all have our own inner guidance system – our feelings and intuition – to help us separate the wheat from the chaff. To know what feels “right” or “true” for us.
And, if we don’t have the information to allow us to make a decision at the moment, to have the confidence to sit on the fence until we do.
Then, finally, – and just as important – to be willing to review and, if necessary, update our decisions in the light of new information that comes our way.
As always, the choice is yours.
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