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Discretion

vs. Simplemindedness
The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes that could result in undesirable consequences

Key Verse

“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.”
Proverbs 22:3

The operational definition of discretion is “the ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which could result in undesirable consequences.” A person practices discretion by thoughtfully considering the possible consequences before taking any action. He values silence, both to allow himself to think before he speaks, and then after he has spoken, to allow the hearer to consider his message. He is cautious and thoughtful, because he knows careless actions often hurt people and damage relationships. He wants to help others, and he realizes others may be influenced by his choice of activities, music, and entertainment. A discreet person does not laugh at or make jokes at the expense of others. Using discretion, he dresses modestly in consideration of others, not wanting his attire to be a stumbling block for them. He knows that, as a Christian, his choices can bring honor or disgrace to Christ’s name. Acting with discretion preserves and protects him and prevents unwanted problems. (See Proverbs 2:10–12, 16, 20.)

When pursued, the fox constantly evaluates his direction and makes strategic changes to avoid the undesirable consequence of capture!
An attractive outward appearance will never compensate for a lack of discretion. “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion” (Proverbs 11:22).

The opposite of discretion is simplemindedness. A simpleminded person is not attentive to what is going on around him. Sometimes he is oblivious to who is speaking, what is being said, or what is happening! Ignoring his surroundings can bring trouble. (See Proverbs 22:3.) Lacking caution and care can lead to rash, foolhardy, and reckless behavior. However, Proverbs is filled with insights on how to grow in wisdom, prudence, and discretion. God’s Word promises to give “subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:4). As you apply the wisdom found in Proverbs and learn from experience, God will enable you to rightly discern what words, actions, and attitudes should be avoided.

Evaluation Questions

  • When choosing an activity, do I consider what Scripture has to say about that activity?
  • Do I consider potential consequences before speaking, acting, or making a decision?
  • Am I careful to speak encouraging words to others?
  • Am I guilty of spreading gossip, slander, or damaging reports?
  • How do I respond when someone corrects me for acting or speaking inappropriately?
  • Must I always speak and fill any silence, or do I wait patiently and allow others to respond?
  • Do I learn from others’ mistakes so that I do not repeat them?
  • Do I seek to be pleasant and courteous in my interactions with others?

More About Discretion

"Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”
Abraham Lincoln
Transformation results as we behold the Lord and yield to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). As we see God’s character through testimonies in Scripture, we grow in our understanding and obedience to His Word. Here are ten aspects of Discretion with supporting verses found in God’s Word.

God enables me to:

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Model His goodness in my words and actions.

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” I PETER 1:15–16
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Choose the wise path.

“When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee. . . . That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.” PROVERBS 2:10–11, 20
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Consider consequences.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” PROVERBS 14:12
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Control my emotions.

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” PSALM 37:7–8
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Avoid gossip.

“A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.” PROVERBS 16:28 “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults.” II CORINTHIANS 12:20
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Value silence.

“Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” PROVERBS 17:28
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Learn from mistakes.

“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” I CORINTHIANS 10:6
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Choose my words carefully.

“A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it.” PROVERBS 15:23
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Practice good manners.

“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord.” LEVITICUS 19:32
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Turn down any invitation to do wrong.

“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” II TIMOTHY 2:22 “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. . . . My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path.” PROVERBS 1:10, 15

Discretion in Scripture

Elihu Carefully Addresses his Elders

“Elihu also proceeded, and said, Suffer me a little, and I will shew thee that I have yet to speak on God’s behalf. I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker.”
Job 36:1–3
After several sudden catastrophes, a man named Job discovered that in a short time he had suffered severe loss of his livestock and herds, his servants, his health, and even his ten children! Why would such terrible losses happen to a God-fearing man who was upright and shunned evil? When three of Job’s friends heard the devastating news, they traveled from their various homes to come and comfort him. They found Job so overwhelmed in his grief over his tragic losses that the men sat and joined him in utter silence for seven entire days. Afterward, the well-meaning friends took turns speaking, and a long debate commenced. Job’s three friends concluded that his troubles were obviously God’s chastisement for some sin he had committed. Job, however, adamantly insisted that he had been blameless before the Lord God. Meanwhile, a fourth man named Elihu had been listening intently as the men contended with each other. Elihu disagreed with his friends’ conclusions. Should he speak up? Would waiting to speak be difficult for him? Would an appropriate time come for him to speak? If so, would he choose his words carefully so that he could discreetly and most effectively communicate his message?

Revealed in Nature

Red Fox

Realizing that its every step is vital in avoiding its enemies, the discreet red fox escapes its pursuers by making quick changes in direction and covering its tracks. It has been known to run in a large circle and then suddenly leap away from the trail, leaving the hounds to the circle.

For Kids

Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum

The Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum uses examples from the lives of men and women in the Bible whose walk with God resulted in good character or whose lack of faith produced poor character. Learning discretion helps children evaluate situations thoughtfully and respond in a way that honors the Lord, reflects Christ to others, and makes a positive impact on their futures.

View the Discretion booklet sample:

Get the complete Discretion booklet with all four lessons & activities:

Free Resources for Discretion

Enjoy these selections from the Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum that are fun and memorable!

Bible Story Coloring Page
Verse & Definition Word Search
Related Hymn Sheet Music
“Sometimes our best statements are made by saying nothing at all.”
Oswald Chambers
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