Mar 2007 Character Quality -- Discernment
the following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
Before the Revolutionary War reached a climactic state, a certain group in Boston,
Massachusetts, known as the Sons of Liberty, were the most vocal and staunch supporters of
independence from England.  John Adams, cousin of the group’s leader, Samuel Adams,
hesitated to become involved in this sometimes hasty group of energetic colonials – choosing
instead to weigh each decision in the balance of future results.  During this time, Adams took on
a very controversial case as a lawyer, defending and ultimately clearing an innocent enemy
soldier.  He was convinced that justice should reign regardless of popular opinion.  As a result,
Adams built esteem in the eyes of the colonials, though at the time, his stance was clearly
unpopular.  Later, John Adams did join the Sons of Liberty and he went on to sign the
Declaration of Independence.  But his first famous act was that of discerning the correct course
even when it went against current demand.  

Discernment is the ability to distinguish between good and evil in order to make wise decisions.  
In the ancient Greek, where the word for discern was first used, this means to “separate
thoroughly, to withdraw from, to discriminate, to make a distinction from.”  In order for us to make
a decision correctly, we must do all these things with our options in order to make the correct
choice.  One example is the use of our senses.  Even a young child can tell by his senses
whether something is hot, cold, right, or wrong.  Using that information, he can then decide his
next course of action.  Through constant use, he will ultimately fine tune his senses and make
better choices.  

The same applies to decisions of both greater and lesser importance.  One who shows
discernment asks pertinent questions and listens carefully to the answers.  They do not judge
hastily based upon shallow information, but they continue investigation until they reach the root
cause.  They learn from others experience as well as their own and do not repeat the mistakes
they do make.  Just as a doctor would never judge a serious disease based on outward
symptoms, but institutes thorough x-rays to reveal the hidden problem, so we should never
judge an outcome based on surface ‘symptoms.’  

Discernment is not judgment.  Judgment is a flippant remark or conclusion made by first sight.  
Discernment keeps quiet until it knows all the factors.  While judgment simply exposes the
problem, discernment conceals the issue until it reaches a solution.  Judgment is truth without
love, which results in harshness.  Discernment is truth balanced with love to arrive at a
resolution.  Love without truth is nothing more than compromise.   

Much of what we know today in modern society comes from what someone else discerned –
either rightly or wrongly.  What we discern today will affect future generations, for better or
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! material.  For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact:  Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK  73102,  (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at
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