Discernment is the ability to obtain sharp perceptions or to judge well (or the activity of so doing).[1] In the case of judgement, discernment can be psychological, moral or aesthetic in nature.[2] Discernment has also been defined in the contexts; scientific (that is discerning what is true about the real world),[3] normative (discerning value including what ought to be)[4] and formal (deductive reasoning). The process of discernment within judgment, involves going past the mere perception of something and making nuanced judgments about its properties or qualities.[4] Discernment in the Christian religion is considered as a virtue, a discerning individual is considered to possess wisdom, and be of good judgement; especially so with regard to subject matter often overlooked by others.[5]

Process of DiscernmentEdit

The process of individual discernment has steps that can be taken in order to achieve a level of discernment. The following actions can be made when making decisions of discernment; taking time in making decisions, using both the head and heart, and assessing important values involved in the situation. Time has been considered necessary in the process of making a smart choice and decisions made in a hurry can be altered by lack of contemplation.[6] When time is available to assess the situation it improves the discernment process. When time allots the tentative decision can be revisited days later and external people can be consulted to make sure that the individual is satisfied with their choice.[7] Making decisions is involved with discernment and they require both the "head" and the "heart". Making decisions with the "head" means to first reflect on the situation and emphasize the rational aspect of the decision making process.[8] In order to make a decision with the 'heart'' the individual needs to make decisions based on feelings as well as rationality.[9] Values in the discernment process are weighing options that decide what is most important to the individual. Every individual’s value system is different which affects each individual discernment process.[10] Combining values, using both the head and heart and taking sufficient time when making decision are the main steps for a successful discernment process.

Group discernment is a separate branch of discernment. In group discernment each individual must first undergo their own discernment process.[11] The individual must keep in mind what is best for the group as a whole as well as the individual when making a decision.[7] The same principles of values, using the head and heart, as well as giving the decision making process ample time all still apply in group discernment. Group discernment is different because it requires multiple people to have a unanimous decision in order to move forward. Group discernment requires discussion and persuasion between individuals to arrive at a decision.


  1. ^ "DISCERNMENT | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  2. ^ Zangwill, Nick (2019), "Aesthetic Judgment", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2019 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2020-11-01
  3. ^ Zhu, Weidong; Li, Shaorong; Ku, Quan; Zhang, Chao (2020). "Evaluation Information Fusion of Scientific Research Project Based on Evidential Reasoning Approach Under Two-Dimensional Frames of Discernment". IEEE Access. 8: 8087–8100. doi:10.1109/access.2020.2963936. ISSN 2169-3536. S2CID 210696252.
  4. ^ a b Diamond, Stephen A.; Larson, Paul; Amlen, Jennifer; Madden, Kathryn; Madden, Kathryn; DuBose, Todd; Crusalis, Bonnie Smith; Giaccardi, Giorgio; Leeming, David A. (2010), "Discernment", Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion, Boston, MA: Springer US, pp. 237–241, doi:10.1007/978-0-387-71802-6_171, ISBN 978-0-387-71801-9, retrieved 2020-11-01
  5. ^ Dominican Province of the Assumption. "The Journey of Discernment". Dominican Province of the Assumption. Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  6. ^ Wolff, Pierre (1993). Discernment: the Art of Choosing Well: Based on Ignition Spirituality. Liguori Publications. p. 4.
  7. ^ a b Barton, Ruth Hayley (2005-02-23). "Discerning God's Will Together: Discovering a Process of Leadership Discernment". Transforming Center. Retrieved 2020-11-01.
  8. ^ Horton, Dennis (2009). "Discerning Spiritual Discernment: Assessing Current Approaches for Understanding God's Will". Journal of Youth Ministry. 7: 9.
  9. ^ Wolff, Pierre (1993). Discernment: the Art of Choosing Well: Based on Ignition Spirituality. Liguori Publications. pp. 5–6.
  10. ^ Wolff, Pierre (1993). Discernment: the Art of Choosing Well: Based on Ignatian Spirituality. Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications. pp. 6–7.