Discernment: Why You Need to Use Your God-Given Gift

Are you using your discernment? When I was seven, my uncle brought his fiancé to meet the family. She was striking in appearance and wore a big smile. But something about her made me uneasy. “I don’t like her,” I confided to my mother.

After my uncle married, this woman’s cruel nature came out. My mother remembered my words and wondered if children pick up clues adults miss. I’ve thought about that when I’ve tried to talk myself out of uneasy feelings. Trusting feels loving. Believing the best seems kind. Yet, over the years, my instincts have often proven true.

How do you handle wary feelings? How do you respond when your child doesn’t like someone? Sometimes, well-intentioned parents tell their children, “Now, we’re supposed to love everyone,” incorrectly equating love with trust (Jn. 2:24).

Jesus told us to be discerning (Matt. 7:15-20; 6:16). When He warned against casting pearls before swine, He was talking about unsafe people, not livestock.

Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you” (Matthew 7:6).

God placed an internal radar in us. Proverbs, among other books, provides wisdom on what to beware of. Sometimes we ignore warnings such as displays of tempers (Pro. 22:24) or manipulative charm (Pro. 31:30) because discernment feels judgmental. However, as a fire alarm sounds to protect us, so internal warnings alert us to danger.

Our radar may not tell us what’s wrong. It just tells us to beware. We don’t have to understand why. We just need to heed it. In some cases, our safety depends on a swift response. Other times we can take our time to process our feelings and gather more data.

The Protection of Discernment

A friend traveling overseas stepped into an airport elevator. Three men followed her inside. Her internal alarm sounded. She stepped out of the elevator even though she was rushing to make a connecting flight. She doesn’t know what would have happened if she’d stayed in the elevator, but she heeded her alarm and returned home safely.

When I worked as a counselor, people who’d suffered harm from someone often recalled warning signs they’d ignored because they wanted a job, a relationship, or something else to work. If they’d listened to their discernment, they would have been more careful. They hadn’t wanted the hassle of explaining their change of heart or risk losing something that might turn out good. But the ensuing heartache made them wish they had been less trusting.

Sometimes uneasiness rises because an old wound is tapped. If we discover we’re reacting because someone reminds us of someone else, like finding your smoke detector needs a new battery, that info is still helpful. And that old wound may have heightened your discernment.

Former Navy Seal Al Horner runs a training program to help children and adults prevent assaults. In an interview he shared some chilling statistics, like eighty percent of attacks take place by people we know. He teaches women to listen to their creep factor feelings.

A friend’s daughter recently called from college to say a man approached her asking for money and then attacked her. But not to worry. Her defense training had worked! The daughter’s quick wit and actions saved her from who knows what.

Tuning in to your radar is one of the best ways to protect yourself from harm. It’s not ungodly to pick up negative vibes. Don’t let the fear of feeling mean, guilty, or foolish stop you from using discernment.

The spiritual person judges all things” (1 Cor. 2:15 ESV).

It’s not ungodly to pick up negative vibes. Don’t let the fear of feeling mean, guilty, or foolish stop you from using #discernment. #RefreshingFaith Share on X

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  1. Melissa Henderson

    I often listen to my internal radar. God always gives opportunity for us to use discernment. I pray I am always listening and ready to follow His lead.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Melissa, it is a gift. You are wise to listen. Sometimes I’ve tried to talk myself out of it thinking I’m being critical. Thanks for adding your thoughts!

  2. Pam Ecrement

    So well said and such an important message to share, Deb. Christians get lost in the idea that we should love and be nice and what you wrote here about love and trust not being the same thing is a great reminder.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Pam, I wondered if it was a Southern thing, but I know there was something about always believing the best that was held up as a virtue. Love hearing from you!

  3. J.D. Wininger

    Another amazing post Ms. Debbie. Thank you for your good word today ma’am. Discernment is a funny thing in my life. I’m learning that the more I trust God in my life, the better my intuition/discernment becomes. I think back to times when I’ve said, “I know something doesn’t feel right about this person or situation, but the Christian thing to do is… .” In reality, the Christian thing would’ve been to escape the situation in as loving as manner as possible to avoid the danger or later-coming pain and distress. Well said ma’am.

    • Debbie Wilson

      J.D., I’ve experienced the same thing. Jesus was the most loving person who ever lived, and yet He saw through to peoples’ hearts and even exposed them! I can’t do that, but I can trust the prompting of God’s Spirit in me.

  4. Ann J Musico

    It is so important to clarify that using discernment and heeding those feelings that something is not right is a good thing – something God has put in us for our protection. We are, after all, in this imperfect world and using all the God-given tools we have just sounds like wisdom to me.

    • Debbie Wilson

      I agree, Ann. there are so many warnings in God’s word. Thank you!

  5. Stephanie

    Thank you for these reminders. Thank you God for giving us the gift of discernment:)!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Amen! Thanks, Stephanie!

  6. Robin

    I appreciate what you wrote here. My husband and I were shot by a group of five strangers (the two leaders of the group are in jail now). The incident has made us more cautious and probably judgmental, which we feel guilty about. But, just as your friend wanted to leave that elevator, we sometimes need to use what we learned from our experience.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Oh my, Robin! That is terrible. I’m so sorry. I hope you are both alright now.

  7. Barbara Latta

    You gave great examples and this is so true. God gives us this warning system to help us judge good from evil but we must stay connected to Him so we can discern correctly and not depend upon emotions. Great post. Debbie!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Barbara!

  8. Bonnie Baker

    It is good to know our internsl radar is our ( HolySpirit) that dwels
    within our hearts. Tuning into him is the best way to protect ourselves.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Yes it is, Bonnie! Thank you.

  9. Lisa Blair

    This is eye-opening! “Sometimes, well-intentioned parents tell their children, ‘Now, we’re supposed to love everyone,’ incorrectly equating love with trust .”

    I appreciate the analogy of an old wound being hit to a smoke alarm that needs a new battery.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Lisa. Yes, we need to listen, and a false alarm can help us take other preventative actions.

  10. Susan Marlene

    This is such an excellent post! I’ve believed this for years but that was after not trusting the good judgment that the Lord provided! I love how you mention how people tell kids that we are to love everyone. Love is good, proper and excellent but there are times when dangerous and selfish people take advantage of that and cause harm. Well done, Debbie!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Susan, I even cringe in books where the hero or heroine talks themselves out of good sense for fear of being judgmental. Thanks for commenting.

  11. Lisa notes

    Why do we often want to downplay our discernment? I know I do. 🙁 But God put that internal guidance in us for a reason. Thanks for this reminder to pay attention to it, Debbie!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Lisa, I think our 3-fold enemy—the world, the flesh, and the devil—downplays the warnings God provides. May we learn to test those voices against His. I think most of us battle this in some way.

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