How many times have you been faced with a difficult decision, a variety of choices or several different paths you could take? Did you feel overwhelmed, confused, and really wishing you had some guidance from someone or more than just one person? In times like these, we can find some assurance with counselors, a life coach, family, trusted friends, and maybe even with our pastor. The fact is that all of us are faced with decisions every day. Some of our choices are small: what to wear or eat, when to make that phone call, which program to watch on television or when to go to bed. And yet we find that big decisions will come along sometimes demanding to be resolved one way or another. Business choices, relationships that need attention, making wise choices about marriage and careers — all demand much thought and discernment. We depend on our own experience, the wisdom of others and our reasoning abilities to make those choices. It is important for us to make good decisions and we have supernatural help to guide us with the gift of counsel.
Having pondered the five gifts of the Holy Spirit of fear of the Lord, piety, fortitude, knowledge, and understanding, we now proceed to the gift of counsel or right judgment. Counsel is the perfection of the cardinal virtue of prudence. Prudence can be practiced by anyone, but counsel is a supernatural gift infused by the Holy Spirit. Through this gift, we can judge how best to act almost by intuition. Because of the gift of counsel, Christians need not fear to stand up for the truths of faith, because the Holy Spirit guides us in defending those truths. The gift of counsel, along with the gifts of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, directs our intellect.
Counsel in practice builds on both wisdom, which allows us to judge the things of the world considering our end, and understanding, which helps us to penetrate to the very core of the mysteries of our faith. “With the gift of counsel, the Holy Spirit speaks, as it were, to the heart and in an instant enlightens a person what to do,” writes Father Hardon. It is the gift that allows us as Christians to be assured that we will act correctly in times of trouble and trial. Through counsel, we can speak without fear in defense of the Christian faith. Counsel enables us to see and choose correctly what will help most to the glory of God and our own salvation.
What are some of the benefits of learning, understanding, and living in the gift of counsel?
- With the gift of counsel or right judgment, we know the difference between right and wrong, and we choose to do what is right.
- A person with right judgment avoids sin and lives out the values taught by Jesus. The gift of truth that allows a person to respond prudently, and happily to believe and follow Christ the Lord.
- Counsel is the perfection of the cardinal virtue of prudence. While prudence, like all the cardinal virtues, can be practiced by anyone, whether in a state of grace or not, it can take on a supernatural dimension through sanctifying grace. Counsel is the fruit of this supernatural prudence.
- Like prudence, counsel allows us to judge rightly what we should do in a particular circumstance. It goes beyond prudence, though, in allowing such judgments to be made promptly, as by a sort of supernatural intuition.
- This gift prompts us to ask, “Is this act true to Christ and the teachings of this church? Does this act lead to or strengthen holiness? Will this act lead to heaven?”
- This gift also has great effects: preserving a good conscience, providing solutions to difficult and unexpected situations, and helping to give counsel to others, especially in matters of personal sanctification and salvation. The gift of counsel enlightens us to know what must be done at this time, place, and circumstance; it also enlightens us to counsel others who ask for advice and direction. Counsel given may be about which reason would not be able to give an explanation.
When they hand you over, do not worry about what you will say or how you will say it. When the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.Focus on His truth, Matthew 10:18-20
How do we cultivate the gift of counsel and right judgement that perfects prudence?
- Pray for the help of the Holy Spirit, especially for the gifts of knowledge and understanding.
- Study Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the church, especially in the moral issues of the day.
- Depend on the Holy Spirit and consult Him. Ask “What should I do” and then trust in the answers you receive in response.
- Develop deep personal humility. The humbler we are, the more active and effective we will be in living the Gift of Counsel. Resist self-admiring thoughts as the mind can be a dangerous mirror. The most dangerous pride is how we see and admire ourselves.
- Develop the sense of our own weaknesses and ignorance, and recognize that this process takes time.
- Keep asking: “Show me, Lord, your ways and teach me your paths”; “Lord, tell me what to do next. What to think next”. The most important part of our lives are our thoughts. Every thought, unless we control it, becomes a desire. Every desire, unless we control it, becomes an action. Every action, unless we control it, becomes a habit. Jesus preached nothing but the truth and practices only charity and love.
We live in a complex world with much competing for our attention, and it can be overwhelming to make decisions. Some the deepest decisions we must make are down inside our souls and are only decisions that we can make. Our intimacy with God and closeness to the Holy Spirit allows us to hear the directives. The Holy Spirit as our primary Spiritual Director, gives us the supernatural help we need to make good decisions, through the gift of counsel. Make the good decision today to invite this gift into your life!
Smitten with the Gift of Counsel,