Ignatian Ideals for the Counseling of Forming Decisions
St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises focuses on many spiritual dilemmas and decisions. In particular he emphasizes the importance in making good elections or decisions. A critical
element in Christian counseling and spiritual counseling is helping others form good life decisions. These decisions may range from vocational life decisions to everyday life decisions. Regardless of the magnitude, St. Ignatius believes decisions should be made carefully and deliberately when they involve the life of the soul.
As a Christian Counselor it is important to help a spiritual child find peace and resolution in a decision but the process sometimes can be a heavy burden especially when the decision can have so many ramifications upon oneself or others. In these difficult times, St. Ignatius laid out a guideline to help others form good decisions or elections about their life.
The primary theme in any decision according to Ignatius is that the end serves the ultimate purpose of salvation. If the decision contradicts the laws of God or endangers one’s eternal salvation, then that decision must be aborted. Christian Counselors should only lay out options that correlate with scripture and the moral law of God. If the decision corresponds with this or at least is neutral in value, then one can begin to evaluate the various options. Christian counselors should help one weigh the various options with all the benefits of one versus the other. In some extreme cases, the person may have to experience the various alternatives to see what best fits for him or her. One should be encouraged to pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom in these times of uncertainty.
St. Ignatius also points out what conditions point towards a positive election. The first instance is if God divinely intervenes. He used the case of St. Paul to help illustrate this. St. Paul’s conversion and life choice to serve Christ was a wise and correct choice because Christ himself intervened and pushed St. Paul towards the proper decision. Another example for spiritual certitude is if the person has commited enough time to prayer. In addition to this, the person should possess adequate knowledge and experience with the situation to form a decision. Finally, when one is free from the noise of spirits or other internal confusion one can make a clear decision. This spiritual tranquility is needed because one cannot form a good decision if his or her conscience is in doubt or is hampered by the noises of the evil one.
In finalizing one’s decision, St. Ignatius also offers this good advice. One should be able to imagine the choice chosen being applied to another. If the choice can be willed to another, then it potentially can be applied to oneself with at least a positive moral value. One should also be able to feel no regret if this choice was made on one’s death bed and finally one should feel no regret if this choice was made before the final judgment of Christ. If any of these choices cannot be seen as positive for these events, then they should be avoided.
With these ideals in mind, Christian Counseling emphasizes the importance of making good choices with clear conscience that corresponds with the teachings of Christ. Some decisions however present issues that are beyond bad and good values but carry a neutral value. In these cases, the soul must search deeper in prayer and meditation and seek the will of the Father in determining the outcome. These solutions are not found easily but through time and spiritual soul searching.
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