The purpose of this paper is to discuss my personal thoughts on my own spiritual discernment and decision-making process. This paper comes from the survey that is discussed in the article Discerning Spiritual Discernment: Assessing Current Approaches for Understanding Gods Will by Dennis Horton. Through this survey I was able to discuss my personal position in the topic of decision-making factors when it comes to career decisions as well as my personal position to a spiritual discernment approach. After reading through Hortons article I was also able to discuss my past and present influences that have had a factor in my approach to spiritual discernment. To conclude the paper I discussed a practical application with a given scenario and how I would handle the situation.
Keywords: decision-making factors, spiritual discernment, career counseling
Spiritual Discernment and Vocational Counseling
The future is something that is usually on a lot of peoples mind regularly. Thinking about the choices you make in life and how they could affect your future is something that is hard to wrap your head around. Figuring out what career path to take is a big part of what your future will look like. According to Kenny, Blustein and Meerkins, career counselors work to help people find meaning in their careers (Kenny, Blustein & Meerkins, 2018). There are so many things to consider when thinking about what your career looks like. In my personal experience, defining my career has not always been smooth sailing. I have changed my career path several times throughout my time in college. Horton (2009) mentions that high school students face great challenges when it comes to decision-making about their future (Horton, 2009). This time, as a young adult, is an important time to think about yourself and what purpose you want to have in the world.
According to the article School Counselors and College Readiness Counseling, school counselors play a big role in helping students get into their dream college (Gilfillan, 2017). This goes along with how career counseling can be helpful for everyone no matter what stage of life you are in. After reading through the research I have found, along with Hortons article, I feel like this can be very relatable to my personal journey. I started to become very interested in counseling when I was a senior in high school. During my senior year, I was a guidance runner and spent a lot of time with our counselors. They helped me personally with so many things especially college decisions. This experience is what gave me a big interest in high school counseling. My goal as a counselor is to help my students be the best they can be which can include many aspects.
Horton (2009) talks about spiritual discernment in his article. This concept is all about knowing Gods will (Horton, 2009). There are so many decisions that are made in life and putting your faith in God, that he will take care of you, is something that everyone should understand. Just like the Word tells us in Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. All we have to do is trust in Him and listen to what the Lord has planned for us.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to making decisions about your career. After looking through the survey about decision-making factors at the end of Hortons (2009) article, I found several that stood out to me. Although all of the factors listed in the survey could be very useful when it comes to making career decisions, the ones that stood out to me were praying for wisdom, looking for signs of confirmation and considering personal strengths, talents, gifts and abilities (Horton, 2009). All three of these factors are something I used when I was working to figure out what my purpose in life was. I hope to bring these factors, along with others, to my career as a school counselor by helping my students figure out what their purpose in life is, just as I did when I was in their position.
Prayer is so powerful when it comes to looking for answers. I pray multiple times a day because talking to God is something I take so much pride in being able to do. There are two factors in the survey that talk about prayer. Praying for wisdom to make godly decisions and praying for specific guidance or answers from God. A study done about the power of prayer showed how prayer can help clear a persons mind and strengthen their physical and mental state as an individual (Hatch, Marks, Bitah, Lawrence, Lambert, Dollahite & Hardy, 2016). This is a powerful statement because it shows that prayer is a great way to focus which will help you to think with an open and clear mind. When it comes to career decisions it is important to have an open and clear mind. I have found prayer to be a big part of my decision-making process.
The next factor that is a big part of my decision-making process when it comes to career decisions is looking for signs of confirmation from God (Horton, 2009). This is a big factor for me. I am a strong believer in signs from God because it is how I got to where I am today. When I was in my undergraduate program I was working towards a degree in Multimedia Journalism. I had big dreams of moving to California and working in the entertainment industry. But once I graduated and landed my first job in a local news station I soon realized that I wasnt doing what I was meant to do in the world. I started praying about it and all of a sudden all of these signs kept coming up in my life. I knew that I wanted to help people but I was nervous to go for it. But these signs are what got me to actually start this graduate program. This factor is very important to me and I know that I can use this in all career decisions because I know that God is with me every step of the way.
The final factor that is important to me when making career decisions is considering personal strengths, talents, gifts and abilities. Career development in the workplace has a lot to do with what your interests are as an individual and life experiences you have had in the past (Kenny et al., 2018). Everyone is talented in their own way. Some people are great dancers others are great with numbers. When it came to choosing my career path, I made sure to think about what I enjoyed and what I felt like I was good at. I love photography and videography but I realized that is more of my hobby instead of a career. My strength is helping others. I have always been a people person and helping others be the best they can be excites me more than anything ever has in my life. I strongly believe that when it comes to making career decisions it is important to be happy with your career, you want to love what you do because otherwise you will be miserable. God has a plan for all of us and that includes using your talents and gifts that He has given you.
Based on the factors I stated above, I would use the bulls-eye approach to spiritual discernment. Horton (2009) describes the bulls-eye approach as one of the most popular approaches. This approach believes that God has a plan for all of us and people who believe in this approach seek His guidance in understanding the plan for them (Horton, 2009). I am most likely to follow this approach because I believe that if you put your trust in the Lord that He will help you get to where you are meant to be. Nobodys path to their career is going to be picture perfect but this approach gives you, as Horton calls it, a blueprint on how to follow your plan. I put my trust in God to show me the way for my future and this approach best fits my beliefs.
Past and Present Influences
Growing up, I was raised in a very traditional Christian home. My family went to church every Sunday and I went to youth group events every Wednesday night and Sunday night. It was just apart of my life and I never really knew much different. There are so many influences in my life that have made me who I am today and that has influences my views on spiritual discernment. Sometimes influences, past and present, help shape your life and opinions on many different topics. Those influences could be family, spiritual heritage, religious background, present religious beliefs and past experiences in life.
When it comes to family I have always been very close to everyone. My parents made a foundation for me to grow in my faith at an early age and that is something I will always be thankful for. One article stated that social identity starts with the family at a young age and I feel like my family has been a big influence in my life since I was born (Baldwin, Molina & Naemi, 2018). My family has influenced my approach to spiritual discernment in several ways. They have always said that putting your faith in the Lord will help you find your way through life. My fathers favorite bible verse that he has instilled in me since I was young is from Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Also like I said before, my mothers favorite bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11. Both of these verses sum up my approach to spiritual discernment. God has a plan for each of us and all we need to do is trust that plan.
Another factor that has influenced my approach to spiritual discernment is my spiritual heritage and religious background. Like I said earlier, church is a part of my weekly routine and my relationship with God strengthens every time I go to worship or read my bible. It is just apart of my spiritual heritage. Being a Christian is something that I take a lot of pride in and I do not see that ever changing. My religious background is pretty much straight forward. I was baptized when I was the age of 10 and I remember the time in my life when I really started to learn the Word and grow in my relationship with God. These aspects of my life have had a big effect on my approach because of how I live my life through Christ. I have been trusting in the Lord for many of years and I know that he is watching over me every moment of my life.
My present religious beliefs have been an influence on my approach to spiritual discernment because of how my relationship is with God. I seek answers through prayer and I ask God to watch over me as I continue to make decisions in life, including my career. I believe that God gives me signs to help me move in the right direction, that is how I got to be in this program and furthering my education to do something I love. I also believe that I have a purpose in this life and that God is helping me understand what that purpose it. The bulls-eye approach is all about the plan. It states that God has a plan for each individual person and He works to make it clear to you what that plan is (Horton, 2009). This could be through signs, pray, scripture, etc. Horton (2009) states that prayer is like a spiritual GPS device, it helps God talk to you and show you the plan he has for you (Horton, 2009).
Finally, things that a person experiences in their life is what shapes them for the rest of eternity. There has been things that have happened in my life that I dont understand but I know that it is all about the plan that God has for me. These experiences that I have gone through have helped me become closer with the Lord. My trust in Him has strengthened tremendously. I have had signs that have shown up right in front of my eyes that I truly believe was Gods way of telling me to keep going. He is helping me understand my path to the rest of my life and this factor is why I choose to approach spiritual discernment with the bulls-eye approach.
When working with clients I know that it is important to keep your opinions on the matter out of the situation. This scenario of this college student expressing her concern about what major to choose because she doesn’t know if it is Gods will for her is something that I personally struggled with when I was in undergraduate school. As Christians, we know that God has a plan for us but this does not mean that we dont have to dig a little bit to find that plan. Prayer was one of my biggest tools while I was in college. I prayed to God everyday to give me guidance through this journey of college. I was constantly questioning the route that I was taking. I didnt know if this was part of my plan that the Lord has already set in stone for me. I soon realized that it is okay to not know exactly what is going to happen in every stage of your life. I learned to trust Him to show me the way.
I think there are several steps that should be taken to navigate through this impasse that this college student is having. The first step I would take with this student would be prayer. Prayer can be something that is frowned upon during a counseling session, especially in schools, but one study shows that Christian clients normally expect prayer to have a part in Christian counseling sessions (Weld & Eriksen, 2007). Since this student is a Christian I would begin by asking her if I could pray with her. I would pray that God watch over her as she is going through this hardship. I would also let God know that I am here to help her get through this and to see that path He has made for her. I feel that prayer is always a good way to start out a session with a client because it can focus the mind to be present in the moment and be ready to talk through the problem.
The next step I would take would be self-reflection. During this step I would help this student talk through her past experiences, her interests and what makes her happy in life. I feel like it would help to talk things through and it would allow me to learn more about this person and where they come from. Once I learned more about her I would be able to connect with her on a deeper level. During this time we could discuss the different options she has for majors and talk about the pros and cons of each one for her personally. Something that may help is speaking with faculty and staff in each program that would be able to give her more insight on what the program is about, potential careers and an overview of the courses she would be taking. Self-reflection is an important step to allow the student to open up about different parts of their life. I would be there to talk through it and help her discover her true passions in life.
The final main step I would take to help this student navigate through this impasse would be to turn to scripture. There are so many scripture readings that are meant to help someone through a hard time. God wants every person to succeed and the bible is a great resource for those looking for answers. I have said this several times above, the bible tells us that God knows the plan he has for us. He wants to prosper us, not harm us, and he wants to give us hope for a great future ahead. I would help her discover good scripture readings that may give her clarity and hope as she is trying to make this decision.
My goal as the counselor in this situation is to let this college student know that God is with you every step of the way. This doesnt mean that there wont be some bumps in the road but talking to God, trusting in him and exploring all your options is the key to discovering that path that was made for you. My personal position could influence the way that I address this clients concerns because of my spiritual discernment approach. I truly believe that God has a plan and he will reveal that plan to us in time, all we need to do is pray and trust in him. On the other hand, even though this client is a Christian it doesnt mean that we have the same views on every topic. The ACA Code of Ethics states that counselors should promote the welfare of clients which means not to harm them (ACA, 2005). It is important to respect the views of each client even if they do not match your personal beliefs . She may agree more with a different approach to spiritual discernment. If that were the case, I would make sure to try my best to understand what she is saying and respect her views on this situation. As the counselor I am there to help that specific individual with their own personal problems and I would make sure to keep that my focus during the sessions.
Overall, spiritual discernment has many approaches and everyone has their own opinions on how God is apart of our life. Everyone has a plan and the ultimate goal is to works towards that career with the help of the Lord. Making decisions shouldnt have to be something you do on your own. I always try to remember to lean on God for help and clarity during hard or confusing times. I also think it is important to help those that you feel are struggling and that is one reason why I decided to become a counselor. I know that the things I have experiences in my life and the people that have crossed my path are all apart of my plan. I am ready to start helping others find that clarity that I did not to long ago.
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