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Discernment Verses Judgment


            Discernment is a very important factor in any counselor’s life.  To be a successful counselor, one must learn to examine a situation.  As the counselor listens to information that the individual reports to him, he must think through the situation in his mind, and determine the fundamental aspects of it.  If he does not do this, he will end up forming his own opinion of the situation, instead of viewing from all perspectives.  He must examine himself also, to see if he has personally ever experienced a similar situation before, and if he has, he must be sure that it has been taken care of. 

            A counselor must also learn to ask questions about the situation.  This will give him the opportunity to see how the individual responds to different questions concerning the issue.  The individual will answer the questions in different ways, thus enlightening the counselor to how he feels about the issue.  The wise counselor will then be able see the cause-and-effect sequences that the individual is working through, and the reasons why these things are happening to him from a Biblical perspective.

            The third way a counselor must learn to gain discernment is through a thorough understanding of how all conflicts are a result of resisting God’s grace.  If the counselor can discerningly show the individual how resisting God’s grace relates directly to his own personal problem, he will not only avoid judging the individual, but will also give him the wise counsel of turning it all over to God, and allowing Him to take control of the problem.

            Discernment and Judging are closely related, and one can unknowingly judge someone if he does not understand the differences between the two.  Matthew 7:1-5 gives an excellent analogy of how discernment and judging are related.  These are vital for understanding how not to judge.

 Discernment requires an examination of one’s own self before counseling another person.  A judgmental counselor steps right in and condemns the individual before stopping to make sure he does not have any sin in the area that is being dealt with. 

            Discernment also checks for accuracy of the situation, whereas judgment forms uneducated opinions about the issue.  This will result in an unnecessary misunderstanding of the topic, and it also violates God’s design for discernment.  Judgment publicly exposes an individual and his situation instead of seeking to resolve the problem privately, as discernment would.  Publicly exposing a situation would cause obvious conflict between the judger and the individual. 

            A judgmental person is often accused of hypocrisy.  This is largely contrasting against a discerning individual.  The counselor not having a thorough understanding of why something happened exemplifies this hypocrisy.  This is because the judgmental person does not understand the basic cause-and-effect principles, and results in him developing his own human idea of the problem instead of relying on God’s supreme laws set forth in the Bible.

            Finally, a discerning person is fully aware, and has a clear conscience before he begins a counseling session.  He does this, because he is sensitive to the commands in Romans 2:1-3 which states that “thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest:  for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”  The judgmental person does not heed this law, and is therefore allowing himself to be put under the “judgment of God.” (Romans 2:3)

            I personally have been guilty of judging on many undeterminable occasions.  One of these was when I thought and spoke wrongly about a family in our church.  A person in the family had some major attitude problems that I did not think were right, and I vocalized my opinion to a few select individuals.  Unfortunately, this led to highly opinionated ideas about this person, and caused a division between the two of us.  I finally realized my fault when I was told the entire situation, and was also humbled to recognize the fact that I had many of the same attitudes in my own life that would have been shown to a much greater extent had I been in a family such as the one mentioned.  The whole situation could have easily been avoided if I had used discernment in examining the situation and myself.  I would have then understood why the person acted the way he did, and taken the proper steps to encourage and uplift him.