I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the information overload I subject myself to daily via the internet and social media. Normally, I can only handle about 10 minutes of social media per day, but since the election campaign, I’ve had a hard time weaning myself from Facebook or media sources like The New Yorker, CNN and Politico. While I want to stay informed and think its important to do so, I’m trying to decide how much is enough and more importantly, approach it all with discernment.

I recently looked up the word “discernment,” and the Oxford American Dictionary defines it as follows:

  1. The ability to judge well: an astonishing lack of discernment.

Discernment is a character trait that I’ve become fascinated with, not from a religious or moralistic standpoint, but in order to help me check the facts that I’m presented with and check myself when I start to feel like the world is going to hell in a hand-basket [and I feel like our country is fully in said hand-basket right now]. This is why I was completely taken aback when I read the second definition the dictionary offered:

  1. (in Christian contexts) perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding: without providing for a time of healing and discernment, there will be no hope of living through this present moment without a shattering of our common life.

We do need to seek some higher understanding of ourselves and the world, if for no other reason than to comfort ourselves in times of change and chaos. Equally importantly, we need to be able to put everything we read, hear and see into proper perspective and view it through our own lens. Even opinions from like-minded people are still other people’s opinions; we must form our own and translate them in ways that are within the scope of our own values and character.

By cultivating discernment, we can all stay informed but use information to compassionately understand the world around us. Loving kindness is only half of the battle; we need other tools to bravely handle life and teach our children how to do so as well. Discernment can assist with making wise-minded choices that are best for yourself and everyone else involved.

Start practicing discernment today. It’s surprisingly calming and empowering.

Image source: Cha Coco