Today we remember Ignatius of Loyola. As a Spanish officer, he was severely injured while fighting the French. A cannon ball injured both of his legs. (If that thing had been a few inches higher—yikes!) During painful recuperation, he had an awakening of faith. In time, he founded the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits.
In his handy and very readable book, The Art of Discernment, Stefan Kiechle presents a list of “Ten Guiding Principles of Discernment” drawn from the wisdom of Ignatius. Here’s a paraphrase of the list:
1. Stay in touch with reality and what is really going on. Pay attention to even the small things.
2. Develop an appropriate internal sense of timing: do not act in too much haste, but do not drag out decisions either.
3. Place your thoughts and plans before the critical eyes of your friends. Seek the advice of wise people.
4. Listen to what your mind, your heart, and your intuitions tell you.
5. Be aware that the “evil spirit” often intends to make the decision more complicated than it actually is. He uses fear. (By the way, for Ignatius, the “evil spirit” isn’t necessarily the devil or a demon. It also is an inner disposition or inclination. It could also be a force in society.)
6. Do not make a decision when you are immersed in a crisis.
7. Know your limits; accept and observe them.
8. Mourn the possibilities you ignored as well as the possibilities you missed.
9. Jesus should be the norm and image of our lives and decisions.
10. Once we are involved in the process of making a decision, we will reach a point where we must accept the risks and let go.
I myself am not a Jesuit, but that sounds like some pretty good guidance.