Characteristics of the Gift of Discernment

It took me a long time to understand that I had the gift of discernment. I have been through a lot of trials and testings with this gift. Had I understood some of the things that were happening to me I would have been able to avoid certain reactions I had in the beginning.

A person with the gift of discernment is attuned to the spiritual environment around them. They are sensitive to what is going on spiritually and emotionally in people within a certain proximity to them. They can feel regional strongholds in towns and cities. They can discern the presence of angels and the Holy Spirit in churches.

When someone is speaking they can know the spirit they are speaking from. This can be a very protective gift and it manifests in a variety of ways.

A lot of people with the gift of discernment are called “feelers.” They feel things, not just in their physical body, but also in their emotions. If they walk into a room and if someone is extremely depressed they may suddenly feel depressed. People with this gift have to learn to recognize that most of what they feel doesn’t come from within them but from someone else. They have to learn to identify with who God’s word says they are and not their feelings—because feelings bounce around—especially in people with this gift.

What is the gift of discernment?

The gift of discernment is one of the 9 spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit as mentioned in 1st Corinthians 12:7-11. It is the ability to distinguish between the Holy Spirit, angels, evil spirits, human spirits, and discern the motives of the human heart. This gift can manifest in the form of visions, physical senses, and emotions.

Discernment Can Manifest in Physical Senses

We have 5 physical senses.


You may taste something when someone is speaking or prophesying. Ezekiel ate a scroll and it tasted sweet like honey. Or you may get a bad taste in your mouth when someone is prophesying and know whether something is from God or not.


You may feel the fire of the Holy Spirit on your physical body. Or the fire and winds of angels (Hebrews 1:7). I oftentimes feel fire in my chest, abdomen, and sometimes my entire body from head to toe when certain angels are present and when the Holy Spirit is doing something unusual. You learn to understand what you are feeling in relationship with the Holy Spirit.


You may smell vanilla during worship as God releases heaven. Or you may smell sulfur when someone is delivered from a demon. These two examples are common.


You may hear the audible voice of God or angels singing. You may also hear thoughts. Thoughts could be from the Lord, what he is thinking about a person. They could be from something demonic—like if someone has a spirit of rejection you’ll start thinking self-rejecting thoughts, or they could be from a person (Jesus was able to perceive what people were thinking)


You may have an open vision where Jesus or an angel appears in the room or the same place you are in.

You may be taken in a vision to heaven, hell, or some other place where God wants to take you.

You may be taken out of your body to heaven or somewhere around the world so God can show you stuff to intercede and pray for.

You may have a night vision (which is distinct from a dream)

You may have dreams. Many dreams I receive from the Lord come in sets of 3. Where I will have 3 dreams in one night all back to back. Oftentimes about a similar thing.

There are many other classifications of visions not mentioned in this list.

Discernment Can Manifest in Thoughts & Emotions

This one can be tricky. Most people assume that because they are feeling a certain type of emotion that it must be coming from inside of them. This is far from the truth. People with the gift of discernment, often called feelers, are sensitive to the emotions and spiritual condition of the people around them and the physical regions they are in.

You may be driving through one city or state into another and the moment you cross the border you start getting hit with lustful thoughts. You feel lust. It’s because a spirit of lust is in control in that town/state. It’s important to recognize that not everything you feel and experience belongs to you. If you don’t understand that not everything you feel belongs to you then you will take ownership of your feelings and identify with them. If you start feeling someone else’s depression you may think “I’m depressed” when in reality it’s not coming from you.

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One time I was at work and my boss came up to me while I was at my desk. He asked me to do something and as soon as he approached me I started to feel nauseous and very weak like I was sick. I could feel that he was fighting off a sickness so I asked him about it and he confirmed it.

Another time, I had a housemate who I guess went out drinking every once in a while. I didn’t know this because it was a Christian dorm—so I figured most of the people there wouldn’t go out and get drunk. One night he came back to the house. He seemed normal but as soon as I go near him immediately I started feeling like I was drunk. I was dizzy and could feel exactly what he felt. This is my “feeling gift” in operation. The gift of discernment is different than empathy but people with the gift of discernment do have high empathy.

On the positive side, people with this gift can feel Holy Spirit & angels. This can manifest as joy, love, peace, glory, ecstasy. A number of different things. I can walk into a prayer room or a church and feel the spiritual temperature of the room. When the Lord starts to move during worship I can feel it. I am sensitive to know what the Lord is doing or want’s to do and is being resisted.

Discerning the motives of the heart

I had a baptist pastor tell me once that he didn’t believe a prophetic person could know the motives of a person’s heart. What’s ironic is that as he was telling me this the Lord was showing me how trustworthy and full of compassion this baptist pastor was—I was discerning how good his heart was. I didn’t say anything to him but I do believe that God can show people with this gift the condition of someone’s heart.

Humility is a must

Extreme humility is needed in people with this gift. Before humility is forged in a person there can be a tendency to judge people based on what someone with this gift discerns. A person needs to come to terms with their own sinful nature, nail it to the cross, and walk-in humility towards others struggling with sin before they become effective. The gift of discernment is not suspicion.

A person with this gift will be held accountable for how they use the gift. It should never ever be used to accuse or condemn someone. Just because you discern something the enemy is doing related to sin in a person’s life does not mean you should come into agreement with the enemy’s accusation against that person. Mercy and compassion is needed with this gift.

Also, do not gossip, if you have this gift. Do not repeat what the Lord shows you to other people. You will be held accountable for every idle word and how you handle the gifts he’s given you.

How do I know if I have the gift of discernment?

Do you want the gift? If you have a strong desire or interest in it then this should tell you something. Ask for it. Our Father loves to give us gifts.

Do you pick up on the spiritual and emotional condition of the people around you? If you are extremely empathetic, this could be another sign. Although natural empathy is not the gift of discerning of spirits it is very closely related. Many people with a strong discernment gift are also highly empathetic.

If you desire to have this gift, or think you may already have it begin a conversation with the Holy Spirit and ask him to increase his presence and show you how to use the gift of discerning of spirits.

I hope these characteristics of the gift of discernment were helpful to you.

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9 thoughts on “Characteristics of the Gift of Discernment

  1. This has really been helpful for me. Especially, the feeling part of the gift but I still have trouble with the burning signs, like burning ear, back and head can you go more into detail for me please.

  2. Excellent. I was first reading about being an “empath”. Your inspiration has me knowing what to do next in Christ’s name

  3. Very helpful stuff.
    Thank you.
    I needed to understand what to do with the things God showed me.

  4. Does anyone recommend a book that I can read that will help me understand myself better?

    1. The Discerner by James Goll is good:

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