By Dr. Jim Sulliman
I have been an advocate for discrimination for a very long time, especially for the last 26 years, when I realized its importance even more. In today’s world, it is not something that seems to be needed and frowned against.
Discrimination was taught to me at a very early age by my parents, who wanted to prepare me for life.
That might sound terrible to some people who would see that as an example of how racism is perpetuated generationally. But my parents were not racists. I was given many more examples of discrimination when I left my home, where I was an only child, and mixed with children of different backgrounds as I attended a Catholic elementary school. Sister Marian Angela, Sister Mary Martin, and Sister Catherine are all responsible for continuing my development as a practitioner of discrimination. They also were not racists. Nor were the many teachers and professors that taught discrimination to me through high school, college, grad school, and post-grad.
It is critical for us to practice discrimination if we use the original meaning of the word… ”recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.”
Every test question is discriminatory because it helps the teacher recognize the difference between the students who have learned the correct answer and those who have not. We discriminate when we go to the correct gate at an airport to catch our flight. The department of Motor Vehicles discriminates every time they refuse to give a driver’s license to someone who cannot pass the vision test. Our ability to discriminate, hopefully, keeps us away from life-threatening situations.
This definition, however, is rarely what we think of any longer when we hear the word because it has so often been preceded by adjectives that have made it something terrible… “racial” discrimination or “sexual” discrimination, or perhaps “religious” discrimination.
Today, even without an adjective in front of it, the word is now more widely understood to mean “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.”
In all the countless ways that we use our ability to discriminate, there is one use that is most important and way above all the rest: our ability to discriminate and tell the difference between good and evil.
When discrimination is used in this context, the name it is given is “discernment.”
Thirty years ago, I stayed at a monastery for several days, where I was taught some ways in which discernment could be enhanced. Twenty-six years ago, I was blessed with three extraordinary people, two women, and a Catholic priest, an exorcist, who have provided “advanced training” to my discernment and taken it to an entirely new level through their words and actions. All three put Jesus first in their lives.
At the monastery, I was given some criteria by which to judge “rightness” or “wrongness,” good or evil… whether something was more likely to be in accordance with our Christian faith or incongruent with it. For example:
- Things that are of God typically reflect “order, harmony, and clarity,” while evil can be detected in “chaos, confusion, and disorder.”
- With God, we have a spirit of peace, unlike the spirit of mental disturbance that accompanies evil.
- God’s Spirit brings life and creativity, not the death and destruction brought about by evil.
- In God, we seek to gather and unify in His name, while evil seeks to scatter the flock.
- Humility is of God, while pride is the sin of the devil.
- When we believe we are acting in harmony with God’s plan, we are “open to the light,” that is to say we believe that God would see goodness in what we are doing, but when we are doing things, we are trying to hide from God or “in the dark,” that is good cause to stop them.
- Obedience to God’s commands will bring lasting joy, whereas “doing your own thing” brings temporary “pleasure” and long term pain.
- Service to others and willingness to sacrifice are steps toward God, while selfish desires take us away.
- Honoring the Gospel message is unifying, while the hand of evil can be seen in “watering down” the message, selecting words out of context, or denying the Gospel message and the existence of God altogether.
- Openness to forgiving others and accepting forgiveness and His grace is of God, not the unwillingness to forgive or accept the forgiveness that evil encourages.
- Recognizing Jesus as Lord brings all of humanity closer to God, which is why evil wants us to deny Jesus and worship false gods instead.
- “Loving one another” is of the utmost importance, which is why evil promotes its opposite.
And still, there is even more to the practice of discernment. It is important to never grow complacent, as so many have already done. We must be constantly vigilant, 24/7, because the Evil One never rests. Today, more than ever, we must be intensely perceptive because of the countless ways that evil is masked, often as something good “And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11-14)
Evil is extremely deceptive and extremely predictable. It seeks division from God, leading to death and destruction. In today’s world, “discrimination” between what is of God and what is of Satan is needed more than ever.
Submitted by James R. Sulliman, Ph.D. Individual, marriage, and family therapist in Abilene, TX. “Live life courageously.”