God wants us to make life-giving decisions so God will help us to that end.

(James Martin SJ)

AIM: To explore decision-making within the context of discernment .

Our Intentions: Participants will . . .

  • reflect on the various contexts of decision-making: self, circumstances, relationship with God.

  • consider God’s ‘will’ within the framework of decision-making.

  • become aware of the Ignatian ‘times’ for decision-making, with their respective processes.

  • appreciate the relationship between decision-making and on-going discernment.


Welcome and stilling

Reflect and Share: Desolation


Individual Reflection on past decisions

Identify a significant-gooddecision that you have made

Ignatian Decision-Making Process

Prayer- Where your heart is …..


Some important presumptions :

The choices are well motivated. They are good in themselves, they would be good in each step of implementation, and would be good for all concerned in their outcomes.

  • I am the one making this decision, and I seek to do so in time of true consolation.

  • I am as interiorly free as I can be for now, given the circumstances of time and place.

  • I have gathered as much information as possible to help towards a responsible decision. This includes consulting people who know me well and whom I trust.

1. In God’s Presence:

  • I place myself in God’s presence and pray for the freedom to understand and choose what is most in harmony with who I am as God’s beloved and with God’s will for me at this moment in my life.

  • I do the necessary research.

2. Self-Awareness:

HOW am I as I set about making this decision?

  • I have a deep instinct about the decision and feel that I already know what I will do.

  • I am pulled in different directions and feel conflicting emotions.

I use ‘discernment of spirits’ – working with consolation and desolation. I try to find out which ‘spirits’ are behind my feelings, which spirits are moving me.

And so :

  • I name the feelings and then reflect on what may be behind/beneath them.

  • I then consider: Are they ‘drawing’ or ‘driving’ me?

  • Which ones, if followed, would enhance my humanity and that of others, and lead to greater wholeness, happiness, generosity etc. for myself and for others, and which ones, if followed, would lead to the opposite?

This may take a longish period of time, and it can include the use of the imagination, images etc.

Conversation/Accompaniment can be helpful.

The sense of what is the right decision grows over time and is confirmed by others, by the right doors opening etc.

3. I have no strong feelings one way or another, but still need to make a decision.

4. ‘ Testing’ the Decision / Looking for Confirmation of the Decision:

Look for God’s confirmation of the decision. You can do one or more of the following:

  • Offer the decision to God in prayer.

  • Live with it for some days, and be sensitive to the impact on yourself.

  • Live with the opposite decision for some days, repeating the sensitivity exercise.

If the decision feels like the best you can make at this time, given the information available, ask God for the grace of confirmation. You may use one or more of the following:

  • Imagine someone asking your advice on this decision: How would you advise them, and why?

  • Imagine you are on your deathbed: Looking back from that vantage point, would you be comfortable with the decision as the best you could have made?

  • Imagine you are before Jesus at the Last Judgement: What would you like to hear him say about your decision?

If the choice does not stand out clearly when using the four-column exercise, look over the advantages and disadvantages of the options and weigh them from the viewpoint of:

  • quality of reasons;

  • those reasons which more evidently lead towards God and not away;

  • consistency with my own graced history, which includes a realistic appraisal of my own gifts and my essential needs at this time.


Where your heart is……

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow . . . Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” (Mt 6:19, 21, 25, 27; 7:1).

Probably the most surprising feature of the Ignatian approach is the premise that God’s will can often be discovered in our “great desires.” Ignatius believed that our problem was not desiring too much but rather desiring too little. He believed that we go wrong not because we’ve followed our desires but because our desires are “disordered.” That is, the whole collection of our desires are placed in the wrong order, leaving us to follow petty, superficial desires rather than the great big desires that God has placed in our hearts. How do we connect with these “great desires?” This is the work of discernment.

What are your deepest desires and how are you called to follow them?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I have seen the sun breakthrough

to illuminate a small field

for a while, and gone my way

and forgotten it. But that was the pearl

of great price, the one field that had


treasure in it. I realize now

that I must give all that I have

to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after

an imagined past. It is the turning


aside like Moses to the miracle

of the lit bush, to a brightness

that seemed as transitory as your youth

once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

  1. Complete any unfinished parts of what we did in the session.
  2. Which one part of this evening`s material will you revisit or pray with during this week?
  3. Read the documents by Smith & Merz and Adrian Porter for further insights and reflection.

LINK: Smith & Merz‘ Discernment as a Process for Personal Decision Making’

LINK: Adrian Porter Decision or Discernment