Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Discernment and Decision Making Part 3
Suggestions from IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA’S PROCESS FOR DECISION MAKING
This is one of several methods that Ignatius recommended for decision making and he recommended it for those times when we do not experience a lot of feeling/inclination one way or another, or feel some ambivalence about our choice. Often this is because we are trying to choose between two or more "goods."
1. The first point is to focus my attention on the choice or decision that I want to make, whether it is to undertake a new responsibility, a decision about a relationship, to move to a different place, or whatever other kind of choice it may be.
2. I recall that I have been created by God to give God praise through the flourishing of my life. I seek to find the freedom of indifference, not to be influenced by any disordered attachments so that I am not more disposed one way or another in the matter of my choice. I try to imagine myself like the scales in a balance, in poised equanimity, ready to follow the course that is most aligned with my life’s ultimate purpose.
3. I rely on God to move my will and reveal to my soul how I might best make a choice in harmony with God’s will. After examining the matter thoroughly and conscientiously, I make a decision that is aligned with God’s will, as best as I understand it.
4. I will use my reason to carefully weigh both the advantages and disadvantages involved in both sides of my choices.
5. After weighing the matter carefully, examining it from every angle, I will consider what alternative appears the most reasonable. Acting on the basis of my reason, rather than any other factors, I come to a decision in the matter.
6. After the decision has been reached, I present this choice to God for confirmation, provided it is intended for God’s greater service and praise. Confirmation may come in a variety of forms, particularly feelings of peace, energy, a deepened sense of integrity, etc.
If there is still a sense of ambivalence, he recommends three “thought experiments”:
a. Imagine a person who you do not know and who is facing the same choice. How would you counsel them?
b. Imagine yourself on your death bed and consider that you would wish to have chosen.
c. Imagine that you meet Christ after death, he who loved you to the end, and he asks you to share with him the decision you have made.
Once we have done our best to make a good discernment, Ignatius recommended we proceed by executing our choice with peace in knowing that we did our best, and in confidence in God’s loving kindness for us. We are also recommended to avoid suggesting that we know God’s will with any certitude, but nonetheless to have humble confidence in our choices.