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Good versus evil. You see this theme played out in comic books, video games, westerns, and other movies. In the classic westerns, you could always tell who the good guy was—the one wearing a white cowboy hat. The villain, of course, wore a black hat and was usually dressed all in black. The good cowboys and the villians had their own posse or gang. The good posse protected the town and fought for justice and peace. The evil gang robbed banks, hijacked trains, and terrorized the towns. In these stories, it was clear who belonged to the good side and who belonged to the evil side.
This idea of good and evil is seen in many religious traditions, including our own. In the Book of Genesis, we are first introduced to God's goodness. God creates the entire world and sees it as good. Humans too are created good. Things get a little dicey, however, when evil, represented by the serpent, comes to town. The serpent tempts Adam and Eve to go against God (who clearly said not to eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden). Adam and Eve choose what is false, or evil, over what they know to be true, or good.
We've heard this story so many times that it's easy to follow along and watch as Adam and Eve fall for the serpent's trick. “Don't listen to him! He's the devil, duh. Don't even go near that tree. What? You actually ate the fruit! What were you thinking?” To us, Adam and Eve's choice between good and evil may have seemed obvious. But in everyday life, things may not always be so clear.
First of all, there are no white or black cowboy hats to tip us off.
Second, there's no such thing as good guys who always do good and bad guys who always do evil. God created the world and all of us as good. Like Adam and Eve, however, we can be tempted into choosing what goes against God, even though we know what is good.
Third, when we have to make a choice about how to act, it may not be clear what to do. How do we know what God wants us to do, that is, what is his will for us? This is where discernment comes into play. Discernment refers to the process of tuning into God's will. It is a process of figuring out what God is calling us to. Discernment takes place when we have the opportunity to make an immediate decision (do I say something about the racial joke that my best friend just told or pretend it didn't bother me) or a decision about the overall direction of our lives (which group of friends is the best one for me?). In both cases, the decisions we make have everything to do with God and the kind of person he is calling us to be. Sometimes we might think that God has nothing to say about such things, especially the little decisions we make every day—what outfit should I wear today? what book should I read? what should I do after school? who should I call to go out with this weekend? But every choice we make, no matter how small, can lead us to be more in tune with God, or less.
Here are some tried-and-true pointers that can help you make decisions that are in tune with God.
These pointers can help you when you face decisions. Even though making good decisions can be difficult at times, trust that the Holy Spirit is with you to guide you and help you choose what is good and true.