HomedotMagisDiscernmentMaking Big Decisions

Making Big Decisions

Seeing with the Heart by Kevin O'Brien, SJ - author photo next to book cover

In the Exercises, Ignatius describes a mode of discernment for making bigger decisions, traditionally called the election (SE 169–89). Making an election relies on the person having developed a practice of discernment in ordinary matters…Ignatius mentions as proper subjects for an election the choice of getting married or entering religious life. Over time, the Exercises have helped people make a wide array of other choices about career, family, relationships, and lifestyle. The election does not apply to basic decisions between right and wrong but to worthy commitments and choices between two or more good options (SE 170)…

Our image of God is [central] in helping or hindering our spiritual journey. The God that Ignatius got to know over the course of his life was a helping and encouraging God. Recall one image he shared in his autobiography: God worked with him as a teacher working with a pupil. The Exercises are built on the foundation that God communicates with us uniquely and personally. God wants to help us make good choices so that we can thrive and become the person God created us to be. God is rooting for us, not testing us or abandoning us if we make a wrong decision. God remains with us even when we take a detour, helping us get back on course.

In making an election, Ignatius urges us to stay focused on our ultimate end (SE 169). As we discussed earlier, in the First Principle and Foundation exercise, Ignatius articulates one such end: we are created to know, love, and serve God and others (SE 23). We can devise our own mission statement, such as “to make the world a better place,” “to care for my family,” or “to serve the poor and forgotten.” These are all noble ends with different avenues to achieving them. As we have learned, we need to be free with respect to those various avenues, choosing that which best helps us achieve our end.

—Excerpted from Seeing with the Heart by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

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  1. “God communicates with us uniquely and personally. God remains with us even when we take a detour, helping us get back on course” – Truly consoling!


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