Three Key Exercises
And The
Decision-Making Dynamic

Chapter 26 of Orientations Vol 2: Part B

        The three exercises -- Two Standards, Three Classes and Three Kinds of Humility -- are important for the decision-making dynamic of the Second Week. They are like three separate filter systems through which the directee's experience is passed in order that his subjective experience truly be a carrier of God's call and not a carrier of the influence of the Bad Angel masquerading as light.

        The Two Standards Exercise helps to free a directee from deception in the decision-making process. The Three Classes of Persons helps to free a directee from inordinate attachments to certain possessions -- spiritual, material, or psychological -- as they affect the decision-making process. The Three Kinds of Humility indicates a directee's level of freedom and readiness for making a choice as part of the decision-making process. Theoretically, a directee is sufficiently free enough to discern a choice if his desires and the affectivities that flow from them are in harmony with the Third Class of Persons and the Second Kind of Humility.

The Two Standards

        The Two Standards Exercise disposes a directee to experience `freedom from' his fears, exaggerations, deceptions and misguided generosity so that what he perceives to be God's calling is God's calling. This exercise also disposes the directee to receive `freedom for' a new discipleship-relationship with Jesus through the directee's activities and choices. Both the personal receptivity of the directee himself and the cultural influences on this receptivity affect the impact of this exercise.

     Full impact -- When the full impact of the Two Standards is experienced, how does it appear? I would consider any of the following to be good examples of this exercise being experienced with impact:

a) Prior to the Two Standards, a directee arrives at some felt learning of his Hidden Disordered Tendencies likely affecting his choices; now, during this exercise, he begins to appreciate Jesus'
call to the `highest spiritual poverty' as it relates to those earlier learnings.

b) Somewhere before or during the exercise, a directee experienced a Temptation Under the Guise of Light and noticed the pattern; now through this exercise he recognizes that this pattern is somehow connected to riches, honours, and pride.

c) A directee experiences unexpected enlightenment concerning potential false lines of affectivity or thinking that may be present within the decision-making process.

d) A Healing-Mode directee receives the enlightenment that certain attachments or ways of thinking prevent him from entering more fully into a deeper relationship with God, the world or others.

     Lesser impact -- What would an experience of lesser impact be like? In general, you can tell there is not much impact if your directee simply feeds back what you want to hear! An indication of a lesser impact would be when the directee has simply considered such aspects as:
        So if your directee were to come to the interview session having made this type of an `examination of conscience,' that would be an indication of a low impact from the prayer exercises on the Two Standards. You could do this from a half hour of reflection on the same material outside the Spiritual Exercises context!

        The Two Standards is a `meditation,' not an analytical or study-type exercise. It is an exercise that encourages the directee to use his imagination. Note the rich images which imply that the outcome be received in the deeper parts of the psyche. Moreover, the Two Standards is intended to help a directee discern a decision more correctly [169]. If in the Kingdom Exercise, you were to think of a directee offering God a blank cheque, here in the Two Standards along with the Gospel Contemplations that follow, you could think of a directee discovering experientially how to recognize any counterfeit handwriting on the pay-to-the-order-of line on that cheque. The Two Standards is related to the Second Set of Guidelines for Discerning Spirits which deal primarily with Deception and Consolation Under the Guise of Light.

     The Triple Colloquy furthers the effect of these special exercises. It is to be made in each prayer period from the time the directee prays over the Two Standards until the end of the Second Week, usually marked by the directee having made an Unconfirmed Decision. The Triple Colloquy is to be used during the preliminary and emerging phases of the decision-making process; that is, for the larger portion of the Second Week. During the Third Week Ignatius does not prescribe it though he suggests that the directee might be helped by continuing this practice [199].

        For some people, the Triple Colloquy looks rather formidable and highly structured! Often for the directee it even begins that way. But little by little through the Repetitions and the material on the life of Jesus, the Triple Colloquy becomes very precious. At first the directee discovers that it is no longer burdensome to pray. Later he discovers himself looking forward to it and often spending the whole period of prayer with it. At times the directee discovers himself making the request for the highest Poverty of Spirit more particular and concrete. He finds himself begging with loving desire for the very things that were once repugnant to him! Whereas, before, the directee was resisting the possibility of giving up one job for another, now, he is asking for the very job that, initially, he did not want. Whereas, before, the directee resisted the thought of a simplification of his lifestyle, now, he finds himself planning its change in dialogue with Mary, Jesus, and Jesus' Abba. And so we see once again, the Triple Colloquy is a special instrument of growing Spiritual Freedom.

        Even when the directee may not have a major decision to make, or when things have not developed according to his guide's expectations thus far, these exercises, with their Triple Colloquies, can help him develop a greater openness to God. They can create a challenge by inviting him to a more radical discipleship in whatever mode he is making the Exercises.

Three Classes Of Persons

        The exercise with the parable about the Three Classes of Persons encourages the directee to become free from his disordered attachments to possessions which affect his ability to make a free decision. Such attachments, on a more obvious level, could be money, equity, geographical location and consequent lifestyle, etc. For example, suppose a directee is discerning a move from a small city to a large city because of job-related advantages -- more money, status, greater opportunities for children to be educated, preference of city to town -- each or all of these could be the obvious, non-negotiable focus for this exercise. Any one of these attachments or non-negotiables of a person of the Second Class could distort the discernment.

        This exercise can also challenge a directee to face those non-negotiables which are more hidden and which affect his choices in life. It can be important that both prayer guide and directee not miss these hidden non-negotiables now because they might be affecting his present decision-making process. This issue is dealt with in the section, "Three Classes of Persons for Healing-Mode Directees," in Chapter 24. I would suggest that you become familiar with this section if you have not already done so.

Three Kinds Of Humility

        The exercise on the Three Kinds of Humility helps to free the directee for a deeper love commitment to Jesus. These `kinds' are not steps on a ladder which one has to climb in order to achieve a higher goal of perfection. Rather, they represent different ways of responding to God's love. They represent moments of invitation to intimacy in an ongoing dynamic relationship with God. Ignatius was a person of the medieval culture and his expressions do not convey to us the dynamic quality of his heart. Thus, many renditions of the Three Kinds tend to be voluntaristic, static and achievement-oriented and are more revelatory of a classicist worldview than of Ignatius' worldview. Consequently, we tend to interpret the exercise on the Three Kinds of Humility as being a cause rather than a result of God's love relationship with us!

        Each `kind' is a different moment of loving concern and is the fruit of the experience of deep intimacy with God! The First Kind can be a very high degree of love as we see, in our own time, in the witness of those who could have escaped death by either denying their faith or acting unjustly. The Third Kind does not imply the distorted belief that the harder thing is the better thing. Nor does it glorify self-victimization which encourages one to place on oneself, through many and varied justifications, the contempt and non-acceptance of others. Unfortunately, both spiritual directors and directees trivialize the Third Kind of Humility with such assumptions.

        Ignatius' assumption behind the Third Kind is expressed in this desire of the heart: I experience such love that I want to be with my lover in all the aspects of my experience; if he/she is poor, then I want to be poor; if he/she is insulted, then I want to be insulted! It is the language of love and it flows from the rationale of the heart. To reduce this Third Kind of Humility to a prayer by which one asks for strength in putting up with the non-acceptance of others is a rather ordinary kind of request and is certainly self-centred for someone in the Call Mode. (However, for a Healing-Mode directee, this might be helpful and necessary.) A real desire for the Third Kind of Humility is a sign of Spiritual Freedom and sufficient readiness to make a choice as part of the decision-making process in the now of the Exercises journey. A directee, with the desire to be privileged enough to respond in the way of the Third Kind, asks not only to put up with, but to choose, what would make him more like his lover:

"Lord Jesus, I find myself loving you so much that if it is all right with you, I choose right now to be poor with you, to be rejected with you in this particular choice of my life. I know I could choose the other path in which I would not experience so much poverty or rejection, and I also know that this other path would probably not be any less effective in establishing your realm; but because I love you so much, I desire to choose the path which makes me more like you. I desire to be like you so much!"
        The Third Kind presumes that a directee has a healthy self-concept and is self-accepting. The ability to pray to follow Jesus poor and rejected, while remaining psychologically healthy, manifests a great deal of spiritual and psychological freedom. Most cultures have developed techniques or ways of coping with attacks to our self-esteem and identity -- ways to protect ourselves against embarrassment and rejection, ways to reinstate our righteousness before others. There are probably no better torture techniques than those which have been developed to undermine a person's identity. Undermine that and you undermine the person. To pray for insults and contempt like Jesus is to put oneself in a position of total vulnerability in which one runs the risk of being destroyed as a person. So even to want to begin such a prayer, a person has to be either sick or quite healthy. But if one were sick, one should not have been making the Exercises in the first place!

        The desire for the Third Kind presumes that the directee has received the experience of being loved by God. This desire is the result of experiencing God's gracious love; it is an experience of Spiritual Freedom. In the Three Kinds of Humility, the spiritual guide has a marvellous instrument for discerning the interior freedom of the directee and his readiness to enter into the discerning process. The directee, as well, has a marvellous instrument in this exercise for disposing himself for greater interior freedom and readiness [157], [168].

Practical Adaptations

        In the notation-[20] approach, Ignatius instructs the director of the Exercises to give the Two Standards and the Three Classes on one full day, the fourth day of the Second Week. This would be equivalent to one week in our notation-[19] approach. However, in order to have the greater impact, you may have to depart from this for persons today; it may be helpful to give it over several weeks.

Adapting The Two Standards (2)

        As a start, I would recommend that you give the Two Standards Exercise once or twice with the literal text just to discover how your directee handles it. This would follow the suggested practice of using the literal text to provoke experience. Then if the directee returns from the prayer exercise not having felt its bite and focus, you can begin to explore the reasons for this:

"You know you seem to have mentioned very little about that exercise on the Two Standards.... That's heavy stuff, actual poverty and insults! ... How did you react to it? ... I wonder why.... Maybe you could go back to that again and take each of those so-called medieval words and talk to Jesus about them.... Let the words provoke your real feelings on the matter! ..."
        You might encourage the directee's active cooperation in adapting this exercise by explaining, how at this point, Ignatius challenges us to consider how Jesus is equipping us to be disciples for daily life after the Exercises journey is completed. This dialogue might include some of the following ideas:
Adapting The Three Kinds Of Humility (3)

        Ignatius proposes that the Three Kinds of Humility be used as a kind of rumination exercise from time to time throughout a full day during the notation-[20] Exercises [164]. If you were to keep this pattern in the notation-[19] context, your directee would ruminate on this exercise from time to time throughout a week. However, in practice, in the preliminary phases of the decision-making process, it is more helpful for your directee first, to do two prayer exercises on this text, and then, to ruminate on it throughout the week. Indicate to your directee that the Three Kinds of Humility is an attempt to experience the quality of his intimacy with Jesus at this point in the Exercises journey.


1. This very insightful suggestion was given to me by Keith Langstaff, S.J., who credited Francis A. Ramsperger, S.J., with the first of these two questions.
2. For a contemporary, inclusive version of The Two Standards click here.
3.  For a contemporary, inclusive version of The Three Kinds Of Humility click here.

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