Discernment is the activity of determining the value and quality of a certain subject or event, particularly the activity of going past the mere perception of something and making detailed judgments about that thing. As a virtue, a discerning individual is considered to possess wisdom, and be of good judgement; especially so with regard to subject matter often overlooked by others.
In Christianity, the word "discernment" may have several meanings. It can be used to describe the process of determining God's desire in a situation or for one's life. In large part, it describes the interior search for an answer to the question of one's vocation, namely, determining whether or not God is calling one to the married life, single life, consecrated life, ordained ministry or any other calling.
Discernment of spirits 
Discernment can also refer to the "discernment of spirits", the act of judging from what spirit (whether good or evil) the impulses of the human soul emanate. This judgment can be made in two ways. The first is by a charism or spiritual gift divinely granted to certain individuals for the discerning of spirits by intuition (1 Corinthians 12:10). The second way to discern spirits is by reflection and theological study. This second method then is an acquired human knowledge; however, it is always gained "with the assistance of grace, by the reading of the Holy Bible, of works on theology and asceticism, of autobiographies, and the correspondence of the most distinguished ascetics".
Eastern Orthodox View 
Saint John Cassian writes in "Conferences" that discernment "is only secured by true humility. And of this humility the first proof is given by reserving everything (not only what you do but also what you think), for the scrutiny of the elders, so as not to trust at all in your own judgment but to acquiesce in their decisions in all points, and to acknowledge what ought to be considered good or bad by their traditions".
Humility is the key to discernment, as well as consulting others and praying about everything we want to do: "Discrimination is born of humility. On its possessor it confers spiritual insight, as both Moses and St John Klimakos say: such a man foresees the hidden designs of the enemy and foils them before they are put into operation. It is as David states: ‘And my eyes looked down upon my enemies’ (Ps. 14:7. LXX).<...> If you have not received this gift you should not think, say or do anything without consulting others about it, and without a basis of firm faith and pure prayer. Without such faith and such prayer you will never truly achieve discrimination".
Saint Peter of Damaskos also writes that "It is excellent to seek advice about everything, but only from those with experience. It is dangerous to ask questions of the inexperienced, because they do not possess discrimination".
Saint Gregory of Sinai says that "You can tell that a person is undeluded when his actions and judgment are founded on the testimony of divine Scripture, and when he is humble in whatever he has to give his mind to".
There is a connection between true dispassion and true discrimination: "The mark of dispassion is true discrimination; for one who has attained the state of dispassion does all things with discrimination and according to measure and rule". "Without dispassion, however, you cannot achieve the beauty of discrimination".
There are some distinct properties of true and false spirituality: "the devil cannot bring about love either for God or for one’s neighbor, or gentleness, or humility, or joy, or peace, or equilibrium in one’s thoughts, or hatred of the world, or spiritual repose, or desire for celestial things; nor can he quell passions and sensual pleasure. These things are clearly the workings of grace. For the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, and so on (cf. Gal. 5:22), while the devil is most apt and powerful in promoting vanity and haughtiness".
Ignatian view 
For St. Ignatius of Loyola, the discernment of spirits is part of everyone's spiritual journey. No one who is trying to make spiritual progress should attempt to do so alone - a spiritual director is required. A director assists a Christian in examining the motives, desires, consolations, and desolations in one's life. Objectively, one can know what is right from looking at the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins in a thorough examination of conscience. But the broader picture of one's life is often not so clear. A Christian should, according to St. Ignatius, share everything with a director who can see things objectively, without being swayed by the emotions or passion. Discerning whether the good spirit (the influence of God, the Church, one's soul) or the bad spirit (the influence of Satan, the world, the flesh) is at work requires calm, rational reflection. The good spirit brings us to peaceful, joyful decisions. The bad spirit often brings us to make quick, emotional, conflicted decisions. A spiritual director can assist both by personal experience, listening with care, and giving an objective analysis.
Pentecostal and charismatic view 
Discernment of spirits is particularly important among Pentecostal and charismatic Christians because of their emphasis on the operation of all the spiritual gifts within their churches. It becomes necessary then to be able to determine whether the exercise of a spiritual gift (such as prophecy or an interpretation of tongues) comes from the Holy Spirit, an evil spirit, or merely the human spirit. They believe that every Christian is able to judge and responsible for judging whether such an occurrence is helpful and edifying to the church; however, they also believe that there are those individuals who have been given the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that the discerning of spirits does not involve the judging of people. The gift of discerning of spirits is also believed to be necessary in distinguishing demonic possession from mental or physical illness.
Additionally, many Charismatics and those in Pentecostal churches believe that the gift of discernment of Spirits allows certain individuals to see spirits. The story about Elisha and the host of angels (cf. 2 Kings 6:15-17) is given as an example. Discernment is the ability to make wise decisions wise in difficult situations.
- Debuchy, Paul (1909). "Discernment of Spirits". The Catholic Encyclopedia 5. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- Philokalia, Vol.2, St. John of Damaskos, On the Virtues and the Vices.
- St. John Cassian, "Conferences". The Second Conference of Abbot Moses. On Discretion, Chapter X. The answer how true discretion may be gained.
- Philokalia, Vol.3, St. Peter of Damaskos, Book 1. A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, True Discrimination.
- Philokalia, Vol.3, St. Peter of Damaskos, Book 2. Twenty-Four Discourses, Discrimination.
- Philokalia, Vol.4, St. Gregory of Sinai. On Prayer: Seven Texts. On Delusion and Other Subjects.
- Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers, Discernment.
- Philokalia, Vol.2, St. Thalassios the Libyan, On Love, Self-control and Life in Accordance with the Intellect. First Century.
- Philokalia, Vol.2, St. Theognostos, On the Practice of the Virtues, Contemplation and the Priesthood.
- Philokalia, Vol.3, St. Symeon Metaphrastis, Paraphrase of the Homilies of St. Makarios of Egypt. III. Patient Endurance and Discrimination.
- Philokalia, Vol.1, St. John Cassian, On the Holy Fathers of Sketis And on Discrimination. Written for Abba Leontios.
- Synaxarion for Uncovering of the Relics of the Monk Seraphim, Wonderworker of Sarov
- Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, 1983, (Los Angeles: Foursquare Media, 2008), p. 340-341.
- Duffield and Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, 497-501.
- Jonathan Welton. The School of the Seers: A Practical Guide on How to See in the Unseen Realm [Shippenburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2009]). (see Jonathan Welton's The School of the Seers: A Practical Guide on How to See in the Unseen Realm (Shippenburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2009).
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- Catholic Encyclopedia article on this topic
- Discernment Leads to Good Fortune
- Vocation-Network.org information about Catholic religious communities and life as a sister, brother, or priest.
- VocationMatch.com helps those discerning a Catholic religious vocation sort through options and find the order or vocation that may be right for them.
- DigitalVocationGuide.org digital edition of VISION, the annual Catholic religious vocation discernment guide....