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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss


A little more than a month ago I was saddened to learn that a gentleman I much admired had passed, leaving behind him a loving wife, companion and partner of many years, and a lasting impression in the minds of so many that I have no doubt we will all remember him long into the future. He was not the first friend I have lost in the last year—another of his like also passed earlier in the year, though I have not written before on the occasion of his death.

What both men had in common were several virtues that perhaps reveal as much about me as about them. They were highly intelligent, witty, strong personalities, and wonderfully generous of their time and resources to friends and strangers alike. But what set them apart for me is the one virtue which is the title of this post. They were men of discernment.

So, what do I mean by that? These two men had an ability to judge—not in the sense of passing judgment, but to size up and see clearly without the benefit of colored spectacles or any other aid to sight. They saw people for who they were, respected them, and were always willing to give the benefit of doubt when others were quick to find fault.

Discernment is a quality sadly lacking these days. We are quick to judge, fasten on ideas and information untethered to critical review and all too willing to sort people into friend and foe—those who agree with us and those who don’t. Maybe you aren’t this way—but I must admit I have found myself acting and re-acting in such a manner more than once in my lifetime. Perhaps that is why I found both these men so worthy of emulation.

Now do not get me wrong, neither man was a saint—and I am glad of it. In our rough world we do not need saints, we need men of discernment. It is not that either gentleman was in the wrong, far from it, but they were real and complex human beings with all the accompanying qualities that render us a tick below sainthood, or anything approaching that.

I do not want you to think that I write in such terms simply to honor the dead. Neither man would approve, and neither do I. We are what we are and if we are deserving of praise, so be it, but I heap honor on no one solely because they have lived and died. A few men, such as these two, leave the world better for their presence. It’s easy to tell. When friends gather, they tell stories, and the act of recounting with fondness some anecdote of their lives is the way we share our grief and remind each other how fortunate we were to have them in our lives, however briefly.

With this in mind I’ll ask you to think about someone who was your man or woman of discernment; the person you honor in this way. Let’s raise a glass to their memory and hope that the world will continue to produce such bright spirits as these.

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