Freedom and Discernment


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Freedom and Discernment

by Vinita Hampton Wright

Freedom and discernment go hand in hand. The freer we become, the more we are able to go about life in a wise and discerning way. And the more we use wisdom and discernment, the freer we become to make choices and then get on with life. It’s difficult to say which comes first—discernment or freedom. One leads to the other. For today, let’s focus on the emotional freedom that can lead to wise decisions.

When making a decision, we are nearly always biased in some way. And usually we have an emotional investment in one outcome or another. One key principle of Ignatian spirituality is the need for detachment, or indifference. In common usage, these terms can mean that a person doesn’t care at all or is completely disinterested. But when using the terms in a spiritual context, we simply mean that a person making a decision will distance herself from her biases and emotions, enough so that she can objectively weigh different options.

When we practice this sort of detachment, our decision-making process can become more well-rounded and holistic. Yes, we acknowledge our emotional state because it’s important to understand what we want and why. But we also look at the situation from a rational perspective, considering the pros and cons. We weigh a decision against our core values in life—and sometimes our emotions are out of sync with what we truly believe.

And we allow the wisdom, intuition, and love of other people to influence our discernment. Some decisions simply cannot be made by one person alone. Even when the discernment involves a private matter, the presence and voice of a spiritual director or counselor can be invaluable.

We have to admit that sometimes we are not fit to make a decision. We are distraught or traumatized. Or some other factor has made us feel desperate—and it’s nearly always a bad idea to get pushed into a decision out of desperation or some other pressure, such as another person’s forcefulness.

There’s much more to say about this. But for now, we can meditate on what detachment means and how we work with it.

Vinita Hampton Wright 

Vinita Hampton Wright is a Loyola Press editor and the author of many books, including Days of Deepening Friendship, The Art of Spiritual Writing, and Dwelling Places. She leads workshops and retreats on writing, creative process, and prayer.​

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Books by Vinita Hampton Wright

The Art of Spiritual Writing

How to Craft Prose That Engages and Inspires Your Readers

Incorporating her extensive publishing and writing experience, Vinita Hampton Wright provides a practical and straightforward look at spiritual writing for a broader audience in The Art of Spiritual Writing.

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Daily Inspiration for Women

In Daily Inspiration for Women, four authors share their individual, spiritual wisdom in this daily source of strength, solace, and celebration that happen in the seasons of a woman’s life.

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Simple Acts of Moving Forward

60 Suggestions for Getting Unstuck

We want to move forward in our careers, our family life, our faith, but how do we do it when there is so much weighing us down? Simple Acts of Moving Forward offers simple but profound solutions to help us move forward in our personal lives.

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Days of Deepening Friendship

For the Woman Who Wants Authentic Life with God

Develop an authentic, dynamic relationship with God through these spiritual meditations for women.

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Small Simple Ways

An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living

Wright’s reflections help you discover “God in all things,” recognize the graces of the day, and take simple, powerful steps to grow in faith, hope, and love over a year.

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