What Shall I Do? Decisions Through Discernment


Shall I accept that job offer? Is this the person I should marry? Should I go to graduate school? How can I help a child in trouble? Such decisions perplex us. How do we choose?

Ignatian spirituality has long been associated with discernment—the art of discovering how best to respond to God in daily life. For centuries, people have used St. Ignatius Loyola’s rules for discernment to help make wise choices and sound decisions.

The first principle is a desire to choose the good. As St. Ignatius put it: “our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.” St. Ignatius’s other rules for discernment help us make choices from among attractive alternatives. Of particular importance are the inner movements of our hearts. The Ignatian rules for discernment provide a disciplined and systematic way to reflect on our feelings as we respond to God and to the events in our daily lives. They give us “the gift of the reasoning heart,” in the words of David L. Fleming, SJ, the noted Jesuit spiritual writer.

Ignatian discernment rests on the conviction that God speaks directly to each of us. We can have confidence in our own experience of God as we develop eyes to see and ears to hear.