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Discernment is the ability to perceive, to recognize, to understand an essential characteristic of persons, places, things, events, situations, motivations and consequences, in relation to reality and eternity. The act of discerning is discernment.


Most commonly discernment involves recognition of differences, the ability to distinguish between:

Spiritual discernment

"Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by experience to distinguish good from evil." Hebrews 5:14 RSV (boldface emphasis added)

"The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14 RSV

"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Romans 8:5-8 RSV

"Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law." Galatians 5:19-23 RSV

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:14-17 RSV (boldface emphasis added)

"Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you." Hebrews 13:17

"There are some things in [Paul's letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 3:16b-18a RSV

Discernment in the Catholic Church: Bishops

According to Catholic doctrine, no charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the discernment and judgment of the Church's shepherds, the bishops, to determine their authenticity and truth.

"Their office is not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,[1] so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together 'for the common good.' " 1 Corinthians 12:7 (Catechism of the Catholic Church C.C.C. # 801)

See also



Peer review

Academic dishonesty

Confidence game

Ponzi scheme





Charismatic movement



  1. Lumen Gentium 12; cf 30; 1 Thessalonians. 5:12, 19-21; John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 24.

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