Thankful for Discernment 

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

December 1, 2022

In January, as I’ve done for the past three years, I made myself a promise. My promise for 2022 was to be more discerning with my time. Historically speaking, my annual promises have evolved as each year unfolded. In March, I posed the following questions to myself when thinking about my promise:

  • What do I spend time thinking about?
  • Who do I spend my time thinking about?
  • Which emotions take up the most space?

I didn’t know when I wrote those questions how I’d answer them. But today, I chose to examine how I’ve done it.

What do I spend time thinking about?

“The root of joy is gratefulness … It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ― Br. David Steindl-Rast

When I spend my time thinking about my problems, I suffer more. I’m human. There will be suffering in my life. But I have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and love all around me. Sure, I could focus on the struggles, but why? I want to focus on what I have to be grateful for. I regularly remind myself what I’m grateful for. And author Br. David Steindl-Rast was right. Being grateful makes me more joyful.

My time here is finite. I’d rather spend it with joy in my heart than with pain in my soul.

Who do I spend my time thinking about?

“A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.” ― The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

There are plenty of people in this world less fortunate than me. Therefore, I must use my voice to advocate for them. I must take my knowledge and use it to prevent injustice. And I must do all I can to create a space for peace to prevail. I don’t want to spend my time thinking about celebrities or fictional characters on popular television shows. I want to spend my time thinking of ways to make the world a better place.

Which emotions take up the most space?

“There are two ways of looking at walls. Either they are built to keep people you fear out or they are built to keep people you love in. Either way, you create a divide.” ― Jodi Picoult, Wish You Were Here

There have been times when fear has been a common emotion in my life. It doesn’t feel good to be fearful. It’s uncomfortable and defeating. And while we’ll all feel fear at some point or another, it’s what we do afterward that matters most. To be afraid and build walls doesn’t help us progress. To be afraid and move forward regardless of the fear is the definition of courage. And when you’re courageous, you can accomplish much.

So instead of fear, I chose to push forward and be brave. I chose to focus on feeling joyful. I chose to concentrate on peace and stillness. I chose to love. And I chose to feel hopeful. Negative emotions are bound to come up from time to time, but they don’t need to overstay their welcome. They’re there to teach me, to make me more aware of my surroundings, and to remind me what I’m grateful for.

I’ve learned that being human requires an element of suffering. But I’ve also learned suffering can be transformed. What I choose to focus my time and energy on will create the life I live. And so, I chose to continue with my promise of 2022. I chose to continue a life full of discernment.

This is my life. And I get to choose how I live it. What a beautiful reality.