One of my observations over the last few years is that more and more people aren’t paying attention to how their actions and words affect others and what’s even more troubling, they don’t seem to care! It’s as if they have the attitude “I don’t care what people think, I am going to be true to myself and do and say what I like.” I understand being “true to oneself” but what I don’t understand is a total disregard for how our actions affect others and how they saddle us with certain perceptions that we may not want others to have about us. It is time for all of us to use a little “discretion.”
Discretion has a few different meanings:
- Knowing how to avoid embarrassment or distress.
- Freedom to act or judge one’s own
- The trait of judging wisely and objectively
With those definitions in mind, let’s look at what the Bible has to say about discretion. Depending on which translation you are using, the word discretion is also translated “wise choices” (New Living Translation) or “thoughtfulness” (Young’s Literal Translation).
Discretion is one of the characteristics of a “good man”. Psalms 112:5 tells us “A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion.” Discretion will guide a man or woman in dealing with the affairs of their life so as to not bring embarrassment or distress upon them. I can’t tell you the number of times something has gone through my mind that I should do or say, but as I thought about all of the “ramifications” of my actions, and “domino” effect it would have, I would decide it’s better not to say anything!
Discretion is also something to keep or possess. Proverbs 3:21—“My son, let them not depart from your eyes, keep sound wisdom and discretion.” If we are admonished to “keep” discretion then it only stands to reason that if we aren’t careful then we can also “lose” our discretion. Be careful not to lose something so valuable!
Leaders need discretion. When King David was getting ready to turn his kingdom over to his son Solomon he prayed “May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.” As a leader, discretion and the ability to judge wisely and objectively is an important characteristic. Discretion also helps us to be obedient to the Word of God and, it is difficult to separate discretion and understanding, because they go hand in hand.
One of the benefits of using discretion is that it will protect or preserve you from embarrassing or distressful situations. Proverbs 2:11—“Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.” In Shakespeare’s play Henry IV (Part 1) the jovial knight Sir John Falstaff feigns his death during a fight only to declare later, “The better part of valor is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.” Using discretion is often “the better part” of not only valor, but of many situations in our life.
Discretion comes through wisdom. Proverbs 8:12—“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.” The wise person chooses their words and actions carefully! Think twice and speak or act once!