Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Meaning “good judgment” and “good taste,” clinical pastoral counsellor Mike Nichols defines discernment as a process of “giving conscious attention to what we think and feel in relation to particular choices we are making.”
In Richard Adams’ classic Watership Down, Hazel the Chief Rabbit shows how discernment enables him to be a leader with good sense. After hearing of a dispute that needed attention, he calmly asks for information.
“Hello,” said Hazel, “What’s happened? Where are the others?”
“Over there,” Blackberry anxiously answered, “There’s been a fearful fight. Bigwig told Hawkbit and Speedwell that he’d scratch them to pieces if they didn’t obey him. And when Hawkbit wanted to know who was chief rabbit, Bigwig bit him.”
Blackberry, Hawkbit and Speedwell are undifferentiated rabbits. Their anxiety is troubling their thinking and confusing their decision-making. Bigwig, whom they thought might be the self-differentiated leader they needed, was not acting like it.
To make a wise decision, Nichols says we must “read the facts and pay attention to our feelings because our immediate experience contains elements of both. Paying “attention to these processes enables us to recognize and choose what is better rather than what is less good.” 
Hazel draws the situation to a differentiated conclusion: “There was no need biting Hawkbit... Now Bigwig’s put their back’s up, and they’ll think they’ve got to go on because he makes them. I want them to go on because they can see it’s the only thing to do.”
Hazel’s slow, methodical and thoughtful manner resulted in the best and clearest conclusion.