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.)
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.
- 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
God enables me to:
Model His goodness in my words and actions.
Choose the wise path.
Control my emotions.
Learn from mistakes.
Choose my words carefully.
Practice good manners.
Turn down any invitation to do wrong.
Discretion in Scripture
Elihu Carefully Addresses his Elders
Revealed in Nature
Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum
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Free Resources for Discretion
Enjoy these selections from the Biblical Character Illustrated Curriculum that are fun and memorable!