wolf-in-sheeps-clothingImmediately, at first glance, I can tell a messy person a mile away and I respond accordingly. I am not talking messy as in disheveled, unorganized or unclean. I am talking about those people who bring nothing but bad news, vitriol, gossip and unkind  words for everyone and everything. We all know those individuals who relish in the misfortune of others and are generally a foul, malicious and poisonous presence.  Yes, that kind of messy!

As much as I am given to viewing the world joyfully, it is sometimes a dangerous place full of people who will gladly, without much consideration, hurt others.  And while I do believe that human beings are fundamentally good, there is ample evidence that human beings have the capacity to be extremely cruel and hurtful to one another. There is a constant tension between what is good and affirming and what is bad and destructive. This tension is embodied in all of us and  while most struggle to exalt the good and keep the bad permanently at bay, hellions exist among us. How then do we protect ourselves from those who would physically, emotionally or spiritually harm us? We must cultivate a sense of discernment.

Discernment is a gift of self-protection and the assurance of self preservation.  Discernment requires an ability and willingness to see what is not readily apparent and quickly determine whether you might be in the presence of someone who does not have the best intentions for you. Discernment means trusting an inner voice and intuition to remain safe. Discernment requires an evolving and mature spirit to learn how to look beyond a person and trust what you see.

In a world that is frantic with constant activity and technology which allows us to  re-craft new identities and hide who we might truly be, discernment is especially useful. Like wisdom, discernment grows keener and more acute as we age and come to understand and appreciate all of what human beings are capable.

Recently, a friend shared a poem that I’d like to share here with full homage and recognition to the unknown author who penned these  profound words which so wonderfully capture the importance of discernment in our lives. These are not my words although I wish they were:

Life is a theater, invite your audience carefully. Not everyone is spiritually healthy and mature enough to have a front row seat in our lives. There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a distance. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you let go, or at least minimize your time with draining, negative, incompatible, not-going-anywhere relationships/fellowships!
Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention to: which ones lift and which ones lean? Which ones encourage and which ones discourage. Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are going downhill? When you leave certain people, do you feel better or feel worse? Which ones always have drama or don’t really understand, know or appreciate you and the gift that lies within you?
When you seek growth, peace of mind, love and truth, the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the FRONT ROW and who should be moved to the balcony of your life. You cannot change the people around you, but you can change the people you are around!
Choose wisely the people who sit in the front row of your life.


Ultimately, discernment means looking courageously into the souls of the individuals in our lives to determine if they bring a compatible, confirming and supportive intention for us and having the courage, good sense and self-love to keep those who mean us ill far away.


  1. Devante

    Very well said Dr. Pinkard! As you know I personally have been through a lot and Discernment has been the most powerful tool that I have developed and continue to develop throughout my journey in life. The analogy of the theater of life really helped to illustrate the point. Some people must sit in the balcony while only our most important supporters who are mature in various areas deserve the honor of the front row. I LOVE THIS!

  2. Yvonne Fisher

    Thanks for the thoughtful commentaries. I love the art work you incorporate in your writings. Please share the names of the arts.

    Please continue to write with such inspiration.

  3. Roosevelt Tucker

    Hi Dr. Pinkard, thanks for the article and definition of discernment. It was quite enlightening and excellent food for thought. I, too, can spot a messy person and I remove myself from the scene immediately. There is enough space on God’s green earth to get as far away from such negativity as needed. Of course, there are those situations where one has to deal with the tackiness and unkind madness of another, but it’s good to remove yourself promptly. I love the poem by the unknown author. Front row seats will be reserved for front row people in my life’s theater. Negative people may attend other negative people’s life theater.

  4. Lynette

    Well said Dr. Pinkard!! These are words that I live by daily as well as strive to be that “front row” kind of friend to my inner circle.

  5. Eugenio 'Gene" Alfonso

    I have seen and read this poem quite sometime ago. It left an immediate impression on me because I love the theatre. The term “Front Row” stood out right away. I have practiced this policy in a small way for many years.
    Of course, I did not know what or why, except that I wanted to protect my spiritual and emotional being. Unfortunately, the so-called bad karma that floats or surround some individuals affect you when you least expect it over time. So thank you for the discernment definition of it all.