handed stance to life. It means we will not demand that things go a certain way to make us happy. We
want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what helps us praise, reverence, and serve God. This detachment comes only
if we have a stronger attachment; therefore our one dominating desire and fundamental choice must be to live in the presence and wisdom of Christ, our Savior.10
Without detachment, discernment will be impossible. How can we discern well enough to make good decisions if we are attached to something we are unwilling to give up?
Detachment can be practiced. The Desert Elders advocated the practice of “the guard of the heart.” They believed that the 7 deadly sins started with the 8 deadly thoughts. For example, gluttony is a thought about food. Lust is a thought about sex. Pride is a thought about achievement.
To guard the heart then, first, look at the behaviors (which they call vices) that trip you up. Next, recognize your thoughts about them. Allow your thoughts to emerge, don’t censor them. Third, follow their trail to the trail head: what is their source? One good way to find the trail head is to keep asking the question why. For each answer you give yourself, ask another why question.11
The regular and consistent practice of confession strengthens detachment. Our evangelical “accountability groups” can be tepid. We need something robust enough to excavate our illusions and delusions.12
Find someone(s) now and stick with them for the rest of your life. There’s no human power that can challenge you greater than the power of a life-long friend.
When it comes to discerning what’s going on in me and around me, I have three practices: undivided heart healing, lectio divina and the prayer of examen.13
(1) Discernment through Undivided Heart Healing.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem said, “We go to the Father of Souls, but first we must pass by the dragon.” And sometimes that dragon is our own heart.
10 St. Ignatius’ Principle and Foundation, the underlying principle for the spiritual exercises.
11 There are several lists of vices stemming from afflictive (disordered) thoughts. Today we hold to Pope Gregory I’s list: pride is the root of vainglory, envy, sadness, avarice, wrath, lust, gluttony. Three books that help interpret Cassian and Evagrius to our modern world: To Love As God Loves, by Roberta C. Bondi; Glittering Vices, by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung; and Thoughts Matter, by Mary Margaret Funk.
12 David Benner’s book, Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction (2004), offers a stout alternative to accountability groups.
13 I realize some evangelicals are uncomfortable with these Roman Catholic terms. However, the practice of lectio and examen originated in the early church, long before the Reformation. I use these terms because if you want to do more research on them, you will best be aided by using these terms.