Discernment can be an aspect of compassion, and I feel it is part of a self-discovery process, which can also include understanding our own personal boundaries. Personally, I have found the art of discernment invaluable especially when in relationship with detachment.
So what is the difference between discernment and judgment?
Everybody experiences life differently so I can only share from my own perspective and what my relationship to discernment is. I feel that there are some distinct differences such as underlying intention or motivations. The way that I experience discernment is that I create space for myself and the situation, which gives me greater perspective. Once that space is created, I feel I can begin to listen to the energy both around and within me. With judgment it is more about separating the self from the other person or a situation, compartmentalization and projections. Why we judge can vary greatly. It may be because of fear, a reaction, or an unwillingness to see something inside of the self that another person or situation may have mirrored or triggered.
The reason for discernment differs for everyone and it depends on what is happening in the moment and what we choose to do or not do. It is a navigation tool. Sometimes it could be about self-preservation. Other times it can reflect an understanding or awareness that certain things, energies, circumstances or people may not be healthy for us to be around or involved with.
It is important to check in with deeper feelings about whether we are actually discerning from genuine compassion or motivated by a deeper fear (manifesting as judgment). I feel that only we can determine the validity of our own actions or non-actions, regardless of what others may say. Even if someone points out a blind-spot, ultimately, it is up to the individual to come to their own realization. Forcing or trying to change others is futile and often causes chaos or further difficulties.
It is common that if we are judging something in someone else, we may be doing that very thing ourselves in some way but we are not aware of it or something was triggered within us. It is difficult to look inwards sometimes, especially if it is perceived as something negative or that we don't really like about ourselves. We also may not want to be seen that way by others.
For me, discernment is an empowering quality and it is based on observation and awareness rather than creating separation and division. If we are judging someone or something there may be some part of the ego that wants to be 'right' and make the other person 'wrong'. Ego can manifest in so many different ways and can be an excellent teacher. It's always trying to make itself significant by identifying with certain emotions and personas and likes to make itself more important than others by competing and comparing. If we become stuck in these identifications (which is related to our conditioning), the connection with the true self can diminish immensely. A shift can happen when we are able to recognize and see triggers as an opportunity to discover more of ourselves and begin to embrace the whole self.
In many cases, I feel it is actually a greater act of compassion to let go or step away from a situation rather than remain and deny our authentic selves or the authenticity of others. I feel if we are honoring our own essence from multiple perspectives (taking others into consideration as well), and coming from a place of respect, this is being compassionate.
It has been said many times by many people that when we judge others, we are judging ourselves. For those who come from a perspective that, "We Are All One", this is certainly true. Taking the time to enquire and learn about people's stories, their backgrounds and what they have experienced in this life, is helpful to better understand their behavior or why they are the way they are. To be able to walk (or attempt to walk!) in someone else's shoes is most definitely an act of compassion and empathy. It may not change the decision for discernment, but it can shift the energy from judgment to compassion, which energetically makes a big difference.
Like so many things in life, part of the discovery process is determined by the individual. Since everyone is different, our experiences will vary, yet there is always an opportunity to be compassionate. To me, compassion and forgiveness is not about pretending something didn't happen or allowing something destructive to continue, it is more about setting myself and the other people involved free, therefore reclaiming my personal power. It can take a long time to reach a place of true forgiveness, however I feel if we are on the road working towards this then this is what matters.
I feel that gaining insight with our ability to discern is mostly within the practice of it, and with patience, diligence and compassion we can create more awareness within ourselves over time.
Written by Laura Naomi
Recommended listening and reading:
"Shedding Light onto Shadow"
"Moving beyond Comparison and Competition"
Image credits: zolotareva_elina on AdobeStock, artem-beliaikin on Unsplash and javardh on Unsplash