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Johanna Jackson

What is a leading?

One close Friend of ours defines a leading as "a nudge, or a little tickle." Leadings can start to nudge us when we listen for divine guidance. Of course, this happens to people of all faith communities, and people who are nontheistic, as well as Christian Friends. A leading can happen even when a person isn't seeking it. Maybe a person feels firly comfortable with their life as it is, but they can't shake a certain feeling. Leadings, when tested carefully with the wisdom of the community, can lead to faithful action.

One Friend in her 70s said: "I've found that when somebody takes a principled stand –  especially a stand for justice – so often, they turn out to be Quaker." This Friend noted that the steps take courage, and they can sometimes be unusually public. Another way to describe a leading is "a step we take (or that we consider) which has an outward impact." Often, the outward action arrives after several stages of discernment.

How do I know if it's really a leading?

Quakers say that a leading is tested by time and patience. It is tested by the wisdom of a group. If something feels urgent or self-important, it may not be a leading. As Friends from Iowa Yearly Meeting say: "Leadings are, if true, from the Lord God... and may push us and pull us into situations...that we could not have imagined, if left to our own devices." This is why following a leading, and taking faith-based action, is so deeply linked to the process of discernment.

Discernment and patience are important, because leadings can often be vague in the beginning. As Diego Navarro, former clerk of Pacific Yearly Meeting, said once: "Leadings are very small things. They start very small, and then they become clearer over time."

For more basic information on leadings, we recommend visiting Philadelphia Yearly Meeting's website on Concerns, Leadings and Testimonies.

What have you felt led to do lately? Which people in your life help you test this choice with collective wisdom?


This page was written by Johanna Jackson with input from two seasoned Friends.



We are a network of Quakers who work for inner transformation and collective renewal. Our goal is to motivate one another toward revitalization, so that people of faith may become creative, relevant, and thriving for years to come.

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