Learning to discern rather than judge is an important principle to practice if we want to be happy.
Judgment, on the other hand, doesn’t work and only leads to negativity and suffering. Therefore, we need to discern.
What is discernment?
Discernment is learning to choose rather than judge.
Discernment is about deciding how you’ll respond to get the maximum benefit out of the situation. It’s accepting the situation as it is, through reflection, asking yourself “Why is this happening and what can I learn from it?”
We tend to judge
When we judge ourselves or others, it leads to suffering.
When we blame, feel guilt or shame, feel like failures, these are nothing more than negative judgments coming from our ego mind.
Such negative attitudes arise from judging, be it a situation, ourselves, or others. We decide something is good or bad, right or wrong, that we want it or don’t want it.
When we make these judgments we shut ourselves of from growing. Judging is not a learning approach to life. That is to say, through judgment we shut down the opportunity to grow in that moment. Even if the situation is unpleasant, it may be the very thing that will give us the learning that we need to advance.
There are hidden complexities to life and as human beings we don’t have the insight, knowledge or understanding to judge.
Discerning in nature
Animals survive by making continuous efforts to find their way to whatever food’s available, despite any natural obstacles. Even though they may make many unsuccessful attempts at first to find food, they don’t sit down, give up and think “What an idiot, why do I bother?” They keep trying until they succeed.
That’s over 999 times he failed! However, he didn’t let that deter him and he didn’t judge himself or give up. He just kept going until he’d succeeded.
Even though he was going in the wrong direction to start with, he learnt from his mistakes and received a favourable outcome. It’s about learning how to make mistakes and learn from them, not judge them as bad.
Life is like a box of chocolates
Have you ever bought a box of chocolates and lost the piece of paper telling you which chocolate’s which? Toffee’s your favourite and you choose, hoping it’s toffee but it’s the Turkish delight, so you try again. This time you choose the peppermint cream, so you try again. Third time lucky, it’s the toffee!
So you’ve made two attempts before finding the toffee, but were the first two choices really a mistake? This is where we begin to change our thinking. Either our choices are mistakes and we’ll beat ourselves up, or we use them as opportunities to learn something new.
However, if you see this as an opportunity to learn – you’ll pay close attention to the choices you make, taking notice that Turkish Delight are wrapped in gold, Peppermint Creams in green, and Toffees in brown. And because you’ve made a note of what’s what, you hopefully won’t make the same mistakes again!
The lesson here is in learning how to discern or choose your best course of action; and you have to be willing to make a mistake, have a go, and learn from the consequences of your choice, without judging.