Category Archives: Discretion

John Wesley’s Advice on How to Vote in an Election

wesley“October 6, 1774
I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

― John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley

Character And The Will of God

mapUsually when we are asking questions about God’s will there are two primary concerns. We want to know what we should do and where we should go. We are chiefly concerned about our vocation and our location.

But when we ask these questions first, we miss the most important aspect of the will of God. Paul says, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). That’s not something we have to pray about! We are told exactly what God’s will is and it is the same for every Christian. God’s will is our sanctification.

Sanctification is the process by which we become less and less like ourselves and more and more like Jesus.

God’s will is not primarily a matter of our location or vocation – it’s a matter of the condition of our hearts. It’s not where we are or what we’re doing that is of primary concern to God; but it’s what we are that matters most to Him.

When we make Christ-likeness our chief concern, the other questions will find their answers by default. God will open up doors of opportunity and service. As long as we continue to develop the character of Jesus Christ we will continually have the guidance to stay on the right path and keep in the will of God.

The writer of Proverbs says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). The word “acknowledge” means “to know” Him. In every situation know and understand how Jesus would respond.

Ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” How would Jesus respond to this person who just wronged and hurt you? 

If you get angry and bitter toward someone rather than showing forgiveness, that’s when you miss God’s will. It’s when you rebel rather than being obedient that you miss God’s direction. It’s when you lie rather than being honest that you get off the right path.

Make the quest for character and Christ-likeness your chief concern. If you are continually developing and demonstrating the character of Jesus Christ, it will be impossible for you to miss the will of God for your life in these other areas. “The integrity [character] of the upright shall guide them…” (Proverbs 11:3).

Morris Hull
Home Life Ministries

The Woodcutter’s Wisdom

Would you buy a house if you were only allowed to see one of its rooms? Would you purchase a car if you were permitted to see only its tires and a taillight? Would you pass judgment on a book after reading only one paragraph?

Nor would I.

Good judgment requires a broad picture. Not only is that true in purchasing houses, cars, and books, it’s true in evaluating life. One failure doesn’t make a person a failure; one achievement doesn’t make a person a success.

“The end of the matter is better than its beginning,” penned the sage.

“Be…patient in affliction,”  echoed the apostle Paul.

“Don’t judge a phrase by one word,” stated the woodcutter.

The woodcutter? Oh, you may not know him. Let me present him to you.

I met him in Brazil. He was introduced to me by a friend who knew that I needed patience. Denalyn and I were six months into a five-year stint in Brazil, and I was frustrated. My fascination with Rio de Janeiro had turned into exasperation with words. I couldn’t speak and a culture I didn’t understand.

“Tenha Paciência,” Maria would tell me. “Just be patient.” She was my Portuguese instructor. But, more than that, she was a calm voice in a noisy storm. With maternal persistence, she corrected my pronunciation and helped me to love her homeland.

Once, in the midst of a frustrating week of trying to get our goods out of customs (which eventually took three months), she gave me this story as a homework assignment. It helped my attitude far more than it helped my Portuguese.

It’s a simple fable. Yet for those of us who try to pass judgment on life with only one day’s evidence, the message is profound. I’ve done nothing to embellish it; I’ve only translated it. I pray that it will remind you, as it did me, that patience is the greater courage.

* * *

Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before—such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.

People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused.

“This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.

One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”

The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.”

The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”

The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”

The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book.

Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?

“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”

“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little.

But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.

The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs.

Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgments.

“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”

The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured.

Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.

“You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Yours son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”

The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”

* * *

The old man was right. We only have a fragment. Life’s mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book. We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story.

I don’t know where the woodcutter learned his patience. Perhaps from another woodcutter in Galilee. For it was the Carpenter who said it best:

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

He should know. He is the author of our story. And he has already written the final chapter.

In the Eye of the Storm, Max Lucado, 1991, W Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.

Quotes on Discretion

  • Discretion.—Remember the divine saying, He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his life.—SIR WALTER RALEIGH.
  • I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.—Calvin Coolidge
  • There are many more shining qualities in the mind of man, but there is none so useful as discretion.—ADDISON.
  • Discretion in speech is more than eloquence.—BACON.
  • Discretion and hard valour are the twins of honour.—BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
  • Nothing is more dangerous than a friend without discretion.—La Fontaine.
  • The better part of valour is discretion.—SHAKESPEARE.
  • Our speech is often in first drafts – lots of corrections necessary!—UNKNOWN
  • Discretion is the perfection of reason, and a guide to win all the duties of life.—ADDISON.
  • Great ability without discretion comes almost invariably to a tragic end.—GAMBETTA.

Entering the Palace “Beautiful”

So I saw in my dream that he made haste and went forward, that if possible he might get lodging there. Now before he had gone far, he entered into a very narrow passage, which was about a furlong off of the porter’s lodge; and, looking very narrowly before him as he went, he espied two lions in the way. Now, thought he, I see the dangers by which MISTRUST and TIMOROUS were driven back. (The lions were chained; but he saw not the chains.) Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back after them; for he thought nothing but death was before him. But the porter at the lodge, whose name is WATCHFUL, perceiving that CHRISTIAN made a halt, as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying, “Is thy strength so small? (#Mr 4:40) fear not the lions; for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is; and for discovery of those that have none: keep in the midst of the path, and no hurt shall come unto thee!”

Then I saw that he went on, trembling for fear of the lions, but taking good heed to the directions of the porter. He heard them roar; but they did him no harm. Then he clapped his hands, and went on till he came and stood before the gate where the porter was. Then said CHRISTIAN to the porter, “Sir, what house is this? and may I lodge here tonight?” The porter answered, “This house was built by the Lord of the hill; and he built it for the relief and security of pilgrims.” The porter also asked whence he was, and whither he was going?

Christian. I am come from the city of Destruction, and am going to Mount Zion; but because the sun is now set, I desire, if I may, to lodge here tonight.

Watchful, the Porter. What is your name?

Chr. My name is now CHRISTIAN; but my name at the first was GRACELESS: I came of the race of Japheth, whom God will persuade to dwell in the tents of Shem. (#Ge 9:27)

Watch. But how doth it happen that you come so late? the sun is set!

Chr. I had been here sooner; but that—wretched man that I am—I slept by the arbour that stands on the hillside. Nay, I had, notwithstanding that, been here much sooner, but that in my sleep I lost my evidence, and came without it to the brow of the hill; and then, feeling for it, and finding it not, I was forced, with sorrow of heart, to go back to the place where I slept my sleep, where I found it, and now I am come.

Watch. Well, I will call out one of the virgins of this place, who will, if she likes your talk, bring you in to the rest of the family, according to the rules of the house. So WATCHFUL the porter rang a bell; at the sound of which, came out at the door of the house a grave and beautiful damsel, named DISCRETION, and asked why she was called.

Watchful answered, “This man is in a journey from the city of Destruction to Mount Zion; but being weary and benighted, he asked me if he might lodge here tonight: so I told him I would call for thee, who, after discourse had with him, mayest do as seemeth thee good, even according to the law of the house.”

Discretion. Then she asked him whence he was, and whither he was going: and he told her. She asked him also how he got into the way: and he told her. Then she asked him what he had seen and met with in the way: and he told her. And last, she asked his name: so he said, “It is CHRISTIAN; and I have so much the more a desire to lodge here tonight, because, by what I perceive, this place was built by the Lord of the hill for the relief and security of pilgrims.” So she smiled, but the water stood in her eyes; and after a little pause, she said, “I will call forth two or three more of the family.” So she ran to the door, and called out PRUDENCE, PIETY, and CHARITY, who, after a little more discourse with him, had him in to the family, and many of them meeting him at the threshold of the house, said, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord! this house was built by the Lord of the hill on purpose to entertain such pilgrims in.” Then he bowed his head, and followed them into the house. So when he was come in, and set down, they gave him something to drink; and consented together that, until supper was ready, some of them should have some particular discourse with CHRISTIAN, for the best improvement of time: and they appointed PIETY, and PRUDENCE, and CHARITY, to discourse with him; and thus they began:

John Bunyan – Pilgrim’s Progress

Refuse Invitations to Do Wrong (Object Lesson)

Getting the Egg into the Bottle

Illustrate the consequences of “accepting an invitation to do wrong.” Choose a large milk or juice bottle with a mouth just slightly smaller than a smoothly peeled hard boiled egg. Wrap a half piece of paper towel into a loose roll. Light the paper at its lower edge and drop it into the bottle. Immediately place the egg on the neck of the bottle.

As the fire heats the air inside the bottle, it expands, causing the pressure to increase inside the bottle. Notice that the egg bounces as air from inside the bottle rushes out. Eventually the air becomes so thin that it can no longer sustain combustion, and the flame goes out.

The air inside the bottle cools rapidly, and the water vapour produced by combustion condenses, causing a dramatic drop in pressure. Because the pressure inside the bottle is now much lower than the pressure outside, air outside the bottle pushes the egg into the bottle with a loud “pop.”

In this demonstration we are the egg. The fire represents the invitation to do wrong. Placing the egg in the neck of the bottle represents accepting an invitation to do wrong. And, becoming trapped in the bottle illustrates the consequences of doing wrong.

Getting the Egg out of the Bottle

Just as yielding to the wrong pressure gets a person in trouble, yielding to the right pressure can get him or her out. It is the same way with the egg. One way to get the egg out is to break it into pieces and take the pieces out one by one. That’s messy and severely damages the egg. A better way is to allow pressure opposite to the one that forced the egg into the bottle to push the egg back out.

Turn the bottle upside down so that the egg once again forms a seal against the neck of the bottle. Place your lips inside the neck of the bottle to make a seal just below the egg. Blow hard! The air lifts the egg and passes around it to enter the bottle. As the pressure inside the bottle builds, it pushes back against the egg from the inside out. When you relax and stop blowing, the unequal pressure forces the egg out of the bottle.

Supplies: Smoothly peeled hard boiled egg · Wide mouth glass bottle · Paper towels Matches · Fire extinguisher

Character First! Education Series 2

George Washington’s “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”

When George Washington – the first president of the United States – was just fifteen-years-old, he wrote the following Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation:
1 Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.
2 When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body not usually discovered.
3 Show nothing to your friend that may affright him.
4 In the presence of others, sing not to yourself with a humming voice, or drum with your fingers or feet.
5 If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it not loud but privately, and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.
6 Sleep not when others speak; sit not when others stand; speak not when you should hold your peace; walk not on when others stop.
7 Put not off your clothes in the presence of others, nor go out your chamber half dressed.
8 At play and attire, it's good manners to give place to the last comer, and affect not to speak louder than ordinary.
9 Spit not into the fire, nor stoop low before it; neither put your hands into the flames to warm them, nor set your feet upon the fire, especially if there be meat before it.
10 When you sit down, keep your feet firm and even; without putting one on the other or crossing them.
11 Shift not yourself in the sight of others, nor gnaw your nails.
12 Shake not the head, feet, or legs; roll not the eyes; lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, wry not the mouth, and bedew no man's face with your spittle by [approaching too near] him [when] you speak.
13 Kill no vermin, or fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the sight of others; if you see any filth or thick spittle put your foot dexterously upon it; if it be upon the clothes of your companions, put it off privately, and if it be upon your own clothes, return thanks to him who puts it off.
14 Turn not your back to others, especially in speaking; jog not the table or desk on which another reads or writes; lean not upon anyone.
15 Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean, yet without showing any great concern for them.
16 Do not puff up the cheeks, loll not out the tongue with the hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them, or keep the lips too open or too close.
17 Be no flatterer, neither play with any that delight not to be played withal.
18 Read no letter, books, or papers in company, but when there is a necessity for the doing of it, you must ask leave; come not near the books or writings of another so as to read them unless desired, or give your opinion of them unasked,- also look not nigh when another is writing a letter.
19 Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.
20 The gestures of the body must be suited to the discourse you are upon.
21 Reproach none for the infirmities of nature, nor delight to put them that have in mind of thereof.
22 Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
23 When you see a crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased; but [damaged manuscript] show pity to the suffering offender.
24 [damaged manuscript]
25 Superfluous compliments and all affectation of ceremonies are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be neglected.
26 In putting off your hat to persons of distinction, as noblemen, justices, churchmen, etc., make a reverence, bowing more or less according to the custom of the better bred, and quality of the persons; among your equals expect not always that they should begin with you first; but to pull off the hat when there is no need is affectation, in the manner of saluting and resaluting in word keep to the most usual custom.
27 'Tis ill manners to bed one more eminent than yourself be covered, as well as not to do it to whom it is due. Likewise he that makes too much haste to put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to put it on at the first, or at most the second time of being asked; now what is herein spoken, of qualification in behavior or saluting ought to be taking place and sitting down for ceremonies without bounds are troublesome.
28 If any one come to speak to you while you are [are] sitting, stand up, though he be your inferior, and when you present seats, let it be to everyone according to his degree.
29 When you meet with one of greater quality than yourself, stop, and retire, especially if it be at a door or any straight place, to give way for him to pass.
30 In walking the highest place in most countries hand; therefore place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to honor: but if three walk together the middle place is the most honorable; the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.
31 If anyone far surpasses others, either in age, estate, or merits [and] would give place to a meaner than himself, the same ought not to accept it, s[ave he offer] it above once or twice.
32 To one that is your equal, or not much inferior, you are to give the chief place in your lodging, and he to whom it is offered ought at the first to refuse it, but at the second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.
33 They that are in dignity or in office have in all places precedency, but whilst they are young, they ought to respect those that are their equals in birth or other qualities, though they have no public charge.
34 It is good manners to prefer them to whom we speak before ourselves, especially if they be above us, with whom in no sort we ought to begin.
35 Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.
36 Artificers and persons of low degree ought not to use many ceremonies to lords or others of high degree, but respect and highly honor then, and those of high degree ought to treat them with affability and courtesy, without arrogance.
37 In speaking to men of quality do not lean nor look them full in the face, nor approach too near them at left. Keep a full pace from them.
38 In visiting the sick, do not presently play the physician if you be not knowing therein.
39 In writing or speaking, give to every person his due title according to his degree and the custom of the place.
40 Strive not with your superior in argument, but always submit your argument to others with modesty.
41 Undertake not to teach your equal in the art himself professes; it (manuscript damaged ) of arrogance.
42 [damaged manuscript]; and same with a clown and a prince.
43 Do not express joy before one sick in pain, for that contrary passion will aggravate his misery.
44 When a man does all he can, though it succeed not well, blame not him that did it.
45 Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in private, and presently or at some other time; in what terms to do it; and in reproving show no signs of cholor but do it with all sweetness and mildness.
46 Take all admonitions thankfully in what time or place soever given, but afterwards not being culpable take a time and place convenient to let him know it that gave them.
47 Mock not nor jest at any thing of importance. Break no jests that are sharp, biting, and if you deliver any thing witty and pleasant, abstain from laughing thereat yourself.
48 Where in [wherein] you reprove another be unblameable yourself, -for example is more prevalent than precepts.
49 Use no reproachful language against any one; neither curse nor revile.
50 Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.
51 Wear not your clothes foul, or ripped, or dusty, but see they be brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any uncleanness.
52 In your apparel be modest and endeavor to accommodate nature, rather than to procure admiration; keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly with respect to time and places.
53 Run not in the streets, neither go too slowly, nor with mouth open; go not shaking of arms, nor upon the toes, nor in a dancing [damaged manuscript].
54 Play not the peacock, looking every where about you, to see if you be well decked, if your shoes fit well, if your stockings sit neatly and clothes handsomely.
55 Eat not in the streets, nor in your house, out of season.
56 Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.
57 In walking up and down in a house, only with one in company if he be greater than yourself, at the first give him the right hand and stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him; if he be a man of great quality walk not with him cheek by jowl but somewhat behind him but yet in such a manner that he may easily speak to you.
58 Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for 'tis a sign of a tractable and commendable nature, and in all causes of passion permit reason to govern.
59 Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against the rules before your inferiors.
60 Be not immodest in urging your friends to discover a secret.
61 Utter not base and frivolous things among grave and learned men, nor very difficult questions or subjects among the ignorant, or things hard to be believed; stuff not your discourse with sentences among your betters nor equals.
62 Speak not of doleful things in a time of mirth or at the table; speak not of melancholy things or death and wounds, and if others mention them, change if you can the discourse; tell not your dream, but to your intimate.
63 A man ought not to value himself of his achievements or rare qualities [damaged manuscript] virtue or kindred.
64 Break not a jest where none take pleasure in mirth; laugh not alone, nor at all without occasion; deride no man's misfortune though there seem to be some cause.
65 Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest; scoff at none although they give occasion.
66 Be not froward but friendly and courteous, the first to salute, hear, and answer; and be not pensive when it's a time to converse.
67 Detract not from others, neither be excessive in commanding.
68 Go not thither, where you know not whether you shall be welcome or not; give not advice [without] being asked, and when desired do it briefly.
69 If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained, and be not obstinate in your own opinion; in things indifferent be of the major side.
70 Reprehend not the imperfections of others,for that belongs to parents, masters, and superiors.
71 Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of others and ask not how they came. What you may speak in secret to your friend, deliver not before others.
72 Speak not in an unknown tongue in company but in your own language and that as those of quality do and not as the vulgar; sublime matters treat seriously.
73 Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.
74 When another speaks, be attentive yourself; and disturb not the audience. If any hesitate in his words, help him not nor prompt him without desired; interrupt him not, nor answer him till his speech has ended.
75 In the midst of discourse [damaged manuscript] but if you perceive any stop because of [damaged manuscript]; to proceed: If a person of quality comes in while you're conversing, it's handsome to repeat what was said before.
76 While you are talking, point not with your finger at him of whom you discourse, nor approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.
77 Treat with men at fit times about business and whisper not in the company of others.
78 Make no comparisons and if any of the company be commended for any brave act of virtue, commend not another for the same.
79 Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof. In discoursing of things you have heard, name not your author always; a secret discover not.
80 Be not tedious in discourse or in reading unless you find the company pleased therewith.
81 Be not curious to know the affairs of others, neither approach those that speak in private.
82 Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.
83 When you deliver a matter do it without passion and with discretion, however mean the person be you do it to.
84 When your superiors talk to anybody neither speak nor laugh.
85 In company of those of higher quality than yourself, speak not 'till you are asked a question, then stand upright, put off your hat and answer in few words.
86 In disputes, be not so desirous to overcome as not to give liberty to one to deliver his opinion and submit to the judgment of the major part, specially if they are judges of the dispute.
87 [damaged manuscript] as becomes a man grave, settled, and attentive [damaged manuscript] [predict not at every turn what others say.
88 Be not diverse in discourse; make not many digressions; nor repeat often the same manner of discourse.
89 Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.
90 Being set at meat scratch not, neither spit, cough, or blow your nose except there's a necessity for it.
91 Make no show of taking great delight in your the table; neither find great delight in your victuals; feed not with greediness; eat your bread with a knife; lean not on the table; neither find fault with what you eat.
92 Take no salt or cut bread with your knife greasy.
93 Entertaining anyone at table it is decent to present him with meat; undertake not to help others desired by the master.
94 If you soak bread in the sauce, let it be no more than what you put in your mouth at a time and blow not your broth at table; let it stay till it cools of itself.
95 Put not your meat to your mouth with your knife in your hand; neither spit forth the stones of any fruit pie upon a dish nor cast anything under the table.
96 It's unbecoming to heap much to one's meat keep your fingers clean; when foul wipe them on a corner of your table napkin.
97 Put not another bite into your mouth till the former be swallow; let not your morsels be too big.
98 Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are a drinking.
99 Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after drinking wipe your lips; breathe not then or ever with too great a noise, for it is an evil.
100 Cleanse not your teeth with the tablecloth, napkin, fork, or knife; but if others do it, let it be done without a peep to them.
101 Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.
102 It is out of use to call upon the company often to eat; nor need you drink to others every time you drink.
103 In company of your betters be not [damaged manuscript] than they are; lay not your arm but [damaged manuscript].
104 It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first; but he ought then to begin in time and to dispatch with dexterity that the slowest may have time allowed him.
105 Be not angry at table whatever happens and if you have reason to be so, show it not but on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish of meat and whey.
106 Set not yourself at the upper of the table but if it be your due, or that the master of the house will have it so, contend not, lest you should trouble the company.
107 If others talk at table be attentive but talk not with meat in your mouth.
108 When you speak of God or his Attributes, let it be seriously; reverence, honor and obey your natural parents although they be poor.
109 Let your recreations be manful not sinful.
110 Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.


WHAT shall I say of those two brethren who lived beyond that desert of the Thebaiid where once the blessed Antony dwelt, and, not being sufficiently influenced by careful discrimination, when they were going through the vast and extended waste determined not to take any food with them, except such as the Lord Himself might provide for them. And when as they wandered through the deserts and were already fainting from hunger they were spied at a distance by the Mazices (a race which is even more savage and ferocious than almost all wild tribes, for they are not driven to shed blood, as other tribes are, from desire of spoil but from simple ferocity of mind), and when these acting contrary to their natural ferocity, met them with bread, one of the two as discretion came to his aid, received it with delight and thankfulness as if it were offered to him by the Lord, thinking that the food had been divinely provided for him, and that it was God’s doing that those who always delighted in bloodshed had offered the staff of life to men who were already fainting and dying; but the other refused the food because it was offered to him by men and died of starvation. And though this sprang in the first instance from a persuasion that was blame-worthy yet one of them by the help of discretion got the better of the idea which he had rashly and carelessly conceived, but the other persisting in his obstinate folly, and being utterly lacking in discretion, brought upon himself that death which the Lord would have averted, as he would not believe that it was owing to a Divine impulse that the fierce barbarians forgot their natural ferocity and offered them bread instead of a sword.

WHY also should I speak of one (whose name we had rather not mention as he is still alive), who for a long while received a devil in the brightness of an angelic form, and was often deceived by countless revelations from him and believed that he was a messenger of righteousness: for when these were granted, every night he provided a light in his cell without the need of any lamp. At last he was ordered by the devil to offer up to God his own son who was living with him…in order that his merits might by this sacrifice be made equal to those of the patriarch Abraham. And he was so far seduced by his persuasion that he would really have committed the murder unless his son had seen him getting ready the knife and sharpening it with unusual care, and looking for the chains with which he meant to tie him up for the sacrifice when he was going to offer him up; and had fled away in terror with a presentiment of the coming crime.

Fathers, Nicene & Post-Nicene, s.2, v.11 (35), p.631, The Works of John Cassian

The Thirsty Pigeon

A Pigeon, oppressed by excessive thirst, saw a goblet of water painted on a signboard. Not supposing it to be only a picture, she flew towards it with a loud whir and unwittingly dashed against the signboard, jarring herself terribly. Having broken her wings by the blow, she fell to the ground, and was caught by one of the bystanders. Zeal should not outrun discretion.

Aesop – Fables

Character Definitions of Discretion

  • Learning how to respond to difficult situations with the wisdom and character of Christ. Knowing what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Seeing the consequences of words and actions further down the road. (Character Clues Game)
  • Recognising and avoiding words, actions, and attitudes which would bring undesirable consequences. (Character First!)
  • dis¾kreshLGn, noun quality of being discreet; prudence; liberty to act at pleasure. »Old French discrecion, from Latin discretio-onis, from discernere-cretum (The CHAMBERS DICTIONARY on CD-ROM)

How to Demonstrate Discretion

at Home

  • Being careful not to say things that could spark a fight or argument.
  • Keeping the wrong influences from certain movies and books out of the home.
  • Refraining from the use of words that could discourage one another.
  • Helping one another remember to think before speaking.
  • Avoiding negative body language and words that criticise and dishonour one another.
  • Foreseeing the hidden extra costs of spending more than the family income.

at Work/School

  • Being prepared to stand alone for what is right.
  • Showing respect to those that are in authority.
  • Avoiding activities that are questionable – don’t do it!

at Church

  • Refusing to gossip or talk negatively about other church members – especially those in leadership.
  • Following Biblical directions for relationships within the church (1 Timothy 5:1-2 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity).
  • Purposing not to defraud other brothers or sisters in Christ by wrong dress or inappropriate attention.

Bible Stories Related to Discretion

  • Esther with the king (The Book of Esther esp. Chapter 5-7) (Key Verses: 5: 4,8 and 7:3)
  • Proverbs 31 Woman (Prov. 31:10-31) (Key Verses:12,26,27,29)
  • Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah demonstrated discretion by purposing to stand alone. They refused to eat the king’s meat that had not been killed according to the standards which the Lord had given to Israel. They realised that the immediate consequences of their actions (possible death) would be nothing compared to the long-term outcome of disobeying the Lord (Daniel 1:8-19).
  • When David and his men were hiding out in a cave, Saul came along, and slept the night in that very cave. David’s men urged him to kill Saul and take his revenge, but David refused to harm Saul. He refused to put forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed. David exercised discretion in avoiding an action which would have resulted in undesirable consequences (I Samuel 24).
  • When Hezekiah became king, he exercised great discretion. The bronze serpent, which Moses had made at the command of the Lord when there was a plague of poisonous snakes, had become an idol. The Israelites had even begun to burn incense to it. Although the immediate consequences of destroying the idol could incur the Israelites’ wrath, Hezekiah knew that the long-term consequences of idol worship to the spiritual health of the nation would be far worse (II Kings 18:1-7).
  • Ananias and Sapphira attempted to deceive the Holy Spirit by keeping back part of the price of the land which they had sold, yet making out that they had given all the money to the church. They did not demonstrate discretion by considering what would happen if they lied to the Lord. As a result of their deceit and lack of discretion, they were both struck dead (Acts 5:1-11).

Bible Verses Related to Discretion

Spend an evening (or several) looking at just one of these verses at a time. Discuss with your family what each verse or story teaches about the character quality; and give vital application of how this quality can be applied to your family. Choose several verses to memorize together as a family during the month.

0995 biyn bene
a primitive root; TWOT-239; v
AV-understand 62, understanding 32, consider 22, prudent 8, perceive 7, regard 6, discern 3, instruct 3, misc. 27; 170
1) to discern, understand, consider
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to perceive, discern
1a2) to understand, know (with the mind)
1a3) to observe, mark, give heed to, distinguish, consider
1a4) to have discernment, insight, understanding
1b) (Niphal) to be discerning, intelligent, discreet, have understanding
1c) (Hiphil)
1c1) to understand
1c2) to cause to understand, give understanding, teach
1d) (Hithpolel) to show oneself discerning or attentive, consider diligently
1e) (Polel) to teach, instruct
2) (TWOT) prudent, regard

Genesis 41:33 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet <0995> and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.
Genesis 41:39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet <0995> and wise as thou art:
1 Kings 3:9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern <0995> between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? {understanding: Heb. hearing}
1 Kings 3:11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding <0995> to discern judgment; {long life: Heb. many days} {discern: Heb. hear}
Job 6:30 Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern <0995> perverse things? {my taste: Heb. my palate}
Proverbs 7:7 And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned <0995> among the youths, a young man void of understanding, {the youths: Heb. the sons}

04941 mishpat mish-pawt’
from 08199; TWOT-2443c; n m
AV-judgment 296, manner 38, right 18, cause 12, ordinance 11, lawful 7, order 5, worthy 3, fashion 3, custom 2, discretion 2, law 2, measure 2, sentence 2, misc 18; 421
1) judgment, justice, ordinance
1a) judgment
1a1) act of deciding a case
1a2) place, court, seat of judgment
1a3) process, procedure, litigation (before judges)
1a4) case, cause (presented for judgment)
1a5) sentence, decision (of judgment)
1a6) execution (of judgment)
1a7) time (of judgment)
1b) justice, right, rectitude (attributes of God or man)
1c) ordinance
1d) decision (in law)
1e) right, privilege, due (legal)
1f) proper, fitting, measure, fitness, custom, manner, plan

Genesis 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment <04941>; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
Psalms 112:5 A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion <04941>. { discretion: Heb. judgment}
Ecclesiastes 8:5 Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment <04941> . {shall…: Heb. shall know}
Isaiah 28:26 For his God doth instruct him to discretion <04941>, and doth teach him. {For…: or, And he bindeth it in such sort as his God doth teach him}

04209 mazimmah mez-im-maw’
from 02161; TWOT-556c; n f
AV-discretion 4, wicked device 3, device 3, thought 3, intents 1, mischievous device 1, wickedly 1, witty inventions 1, lewdness 1, mischievous 1; 19
1) purpose, discretion, device, plot
1a) purpose
1b) discretion
1c) devices (evil)

Job 21:27 Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices <04209> which ye wrongfully imagine against me.
Proverbs 1:4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion <04209>. {discretion: or, advisement}
Proverbs 2:11 Discretion <04209> shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
Proverbs 3:21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion <04209>:
Proverbs 5:2 That thou mayest regard discretion <04209>, and that thy lips may keep knowledge.

02940 ta‘am tah’-am
from 02938; TWOT-815a; n m
AV-taste 5, behaviour 2, advice 1, understanding 1, judgement 1, discretion 1, reason 1, decree 1; 13
1) taste, judgment
1a) taste
1b) judgment (fig.)
1c) decision, decree

Exodus 16:31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste <02940> of it was like wafers made with honey.
Proverbs 11:22 As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion <02940> . {is without: Heb. departeth from}

07922 sekel seh’-kel or sekel say’-kel
from 07919; TWOT-2263a; n m
AV-understanding 7, wisdom 3, wise 1, prudence 1, knowledge 1, sense 1, discretion 1, policy 1; 16
1) prudence, insight, understanding
1a) prudence, good sense
1b) insight, understanding
1c) cunning, craft (bad sense)

1 Samuel 25:3 Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding <07922> , and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.
Proverbs 19:11 The discretion <07922> of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression. {discretion: or, prudence}

08394 tabuwn taw-boon’ and (fem.) tabuwnah teb-oo-naw’ or towbunah to-boo-naw’
from 0995; TWOT-239c; n m
AV-understanding 38, discretion 1, reasons 1, misc 3; 43
1) understanding, intelligence
1a) the act of understanding
1a1) skill
1b) the faculty of understanding
1b1) intelligence, understanding, insight
1c) the object of knowledge
1d) teacher (personification)

Exodus 31:3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding <08394>, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
Proverbs 2:11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding <08394> shall keep thee:
Proverbs 18:2 A fool hath no delight in understanding <08394>, but that his heart may discover itself.
Jeremiah 10:12 He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion <08394>.

3562 nounechos noon-ekh-oce’
from a comparative of the accusative case of 3563 and 2192; TDNT-2:816, *; adv
AV-discreetly 1; 1
1) wisely, discreetly, prudently

Mark 12:34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly <3562>, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

4998 sophron so’-frone
from the base of 4982 and that of 5424; TDNT-7:1097,1150; adj
AV-sober 2, temperate 1, discreet 1; 4
1) of a sound mind, sane, in one’s senses
2) curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate

1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober <4998>, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; {of good…: or, modest}
Titus 2:5 To be discreet <4998>, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

David: An Example of Failure to be Alert

King David was a great man.  His stories found in First and Second Samuel are inspiring and teach us a lot about the character of God.  However, David’s fall from success came from one decisive moment in which he chose not to be alert.

When the Israelite army was in battle against the Ammonites, David chose to stay home.  One night he walked around the roof of his palace and saw a woman bathing on a house nearby.  He was not alert to the dangers of the lust that tempted his soul.  Instead of fleeing from the temptation (as Joseph did in Genesis 39), David pursued the temptation and brought the woman to him.   His inability to be alert to temptation brought severe consequences.  First, she became pregnant.  Secondly, David tried to cover up his sin and committed more sins by murdering the woman’s husband.  Thirdly, God brought judgment on David and the child died.  After that, David’s kingdom slowly spiraled out of control—rapes, murders, and treason characterizing his kingdom.  He experienced all this pain because of one moment of David’s inability to be alert to the sexual temptation in his life. (2 Samuel 11)

Michael C. Lyons, Editor of Faith Outreach, Character Council, Cincinnati, Ohio