Every so often we’re faced with a really tough decision. I’m not talking about which yoga class to take or what wine to drink Saturday night, but a choice that has the power to rock our world—whether it’s related to our work, our most important relationships or the place in which we live.
We often times turn to others for advice, but ultimately the decision is ours. And while the answers can sometimes come to us in a flash of insight, as clear as the ping of a text message, other times we can become overwhelmed, our churning, overanalyzing minds becoming frozen with indecision.
That’s when it’s time to find the inner voice.
You may know the voice I’m talking about, it’s the one that pops up every now and then, assuring us it’s okay to try something new, or even helping to guide us away from danger. And while this voice can sometimes be elusive, and even go MIA for long stretches, it nonetheless exists within all of us.
Eileen Flanagan knows all about this inner voice and writes about it beautifully in her book The Wisdom to Know the Difference. Subtitled When to Make a Change & When to Let Go, Flanagan tells us how various people went about making important decisions in their lives. But even more interesting is the extraordinary wisdom she provides while relaying these stories, including passages about the inner voice and the wisdom that comes with it.
If you accept the idea that there is a source of divine wisdom in the universe, and that you are connected to that Source, then it makes sense that listening within is crucial to accessing wisdom. ~Flanagan
The idea of the inner voice and its link to “divine wisdom” can be traced back to the Kabbalah and the Bible where it is referred to as Divine Revelation. Napolean Hill has another name for it, Infinite Intelligence, and wrote that “the small still voice which speaks from within is superior to your own powers of reason.” The reasoning is the voice goes beyond our own inherent abilities, and pulls from a universal source of wisdom.
The key in finding this wisdom is faith—knowing that the guidance is there and available to us, even if at first attempt we are unable to access it. What we need, and what’s often lacking, is patience. To this point, Flanagan suggests that finding the answers we seek may not come as quickly as we would like.
Divine guidance is not always so rapid or clear. Many people experience it as more of a gradual dawning, like a sunrise rather than a lightning bolt…allow time for answers to unfold, rather than demanding an immediate solution. ~Flanagan
To know the guidance you receive is true, the author points to a Christian tradition. She recommends taking the guidance you’ve received and checking it against the “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If the guidance we hear leads to these qualities, it is much more likely to be trustworthy.”
If all this is sounding a bit too “new-agey” for you, know that Flanagan often addresses the issue of finding guidance with clarity and the kind of common sense even your grandmother would appreciate:
“Pay attention to what opportunities you’ve been given and see if they correspond to what your inner guidance is telling you.” ~Flanagan
Ultimately, our participation is needed to help call the shots and steer our decision in the direction that works best for us. This might best be summed up by a woman in the book named Marcelle. After making her own difficult decision she concludes:
“What you want is the same thing as what God wants. Be open to letting God make that happen.”
This post originally appeared on Elephant Journal.