Community and Discernment

Funny, this theme of knowing whether to act or not seems not quite done yet. Last night at my book club, this very dilemma came up as one member shared whether or not to contact someone in need. Other members of the study group offered suggestions about the value of action or not acting, possible consequences, and even suggestions about a third alternative…wait. What was happening, I realize this morning, is what the Quakers call a meeting of discernment. Quaker teacher, Parker Palmer, describes these opportunities for Quakers to seek guidance when they are faced with difficult decisions. Imagine that! How many of us would like to have that kind of support in our lives. Instead we struggle with important decisions like whether to change jobs, whether to move family to a new location, or whether to make a major purchase.                              .

I don’t know today what my friend has decided to do, but I hope she felt the leading that was taking place as we met together in community. As with the Quaker meeting, our little community knew better than to tell her what to do. Each person simply shared whatever wisdom we have acquired over the years…wisdom that comes from failures as well as successes. In fact, I believe that sharing our mistakes for the sake of another is one way of redeeming the harm we have done.

I belong to other groups that have a similar function for me, especially my 12 steps communities. For some, the rule to refrain from giving advice is explicit. Other times, people of depth just know the difference between helping someone reflect on their situation and telling them what they should do. The distinction is one I am still learning.