What it means to test the spirits is quite the subject. There are so many explanations on this one subject. There are different branches to the same tree that stretch into various territories.
There are two types of people who engage in this behaviour. The first is well-read in the fathers of the Church but are still spiritual infants. Filled with spiritual pride they go around testing their newfound knowledge on others with disastrous irreversible effects. Then some are spiritual giants and through whom the spiritual instruction is combined with a pearl of humble wisdom bestowed upon them by the Lord.
The latter type of person although never free from error nevertheless has an advantage over the former for obvious reasons. But this post is for everyone mature and immature.
Testing the spirits with someone and trying to find out where they’re at in their spiritual life should never be done on spiritual beginners. . . ever. For crying out loud there’s no need for it they’re only coming into the Church. If they tell you they saw an angel in their dreams or something just nod and agree with them.
Act like you’re amazed and happy for them. It might be true and might not be but who cares? If you turn around and rebuke them that it’s not from God or do some fishing to see what spirit they have with some harsh questions you could run them from the door of the Church forever. Don’t be surprised if you see them down the evangelical Church next Sunday where they feel loved. Yes, and unless you win them back you’re going to answer for it before the Lord. You might as well have set your soul on fire.
The pressure applied when approaching them will kill any interest in the faith they had before they came through the door. This kind of approach can even kill the most spiritually advanced soul so you can only imagine what it will do to the average joe who has not even read the Bible yet.
I saw a Nun do this once to a young man and he was extremely hurt at her silent treatment. She shunned him for the remainder of the retreat assuming him to be a mental case. I witnessed laypeople do it as well giving the eerie silent treatment to people trying to confide in them some amazing dream or spiritual revelation they may have had (or think they’ve had). Then they pounce on them with, “IT’S NOT FROM GOD”. And, deluded creatures some of them even Bishops and priests end up causing scandal. No, Bishops and priests are not immune from spiritual delusion, you know? Nobody is.
All I’m saying is, be careful with others as souls are very delicate. The devil is very clever, and nobody is beyond his reach from Bishop to Saint. If you wander around like a self-righteous angel thinking you know best, then don’t be surprised if you become a target for his plan.