Last weekend I was talking about vices and confession, and I promised to show you a way to really analyze the vices you personally have. It is at this point that I must admit that I’m rather old-fashioned.
I think that age old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” would be the operative here. I get so dang tired of everything having to be new to be useful. It’s idiotic. Those men and women who came before us were not stupid. (In case you didn’t notice, I’ve struck a sore spot.) I’m gonna have to save this rant for another day.
Back to tradition. The best way to find out when, where, what and why you are sinning, or where the vices in your life have control, is the same way it’s been done for hundreds of years.
You examine your conscience.
Yup, nothing beats it. It works nearly every time. I have a warning here though if you have never done this before.
Your most frequent sin is probably not what you think it is.
I think the only way to truly illustrate this is through my own experience. I was told to begin recording my examination of conscience in a journal by my spiritual director, and so I had no choice but to obey. I was terrified of this.
Truth be told, I already knew what my problem was. I love my wife very dearly, but in a culture that sells sex at every turn, it’s hard not to notice. All you have to do is walk in the local mall past the Victoria’s Secret, or flip on the TV for ten minutes to know that sex is used to sell everything known to man. “Wow! that cleavage really makes me want to buy that motor oil!” It sounds silly when you put it that way, but that is precisely what the average man is flooded with everyday. I am no exception. I just knew that this had to be a real problem for me, and my journal would be filled with all my lascivious thoughts.
Oh boy, was I wrong.
Yes, that did happen on occasion, but I found my cynicism allowed me to resist that particular temptation rather well. (Three cheers for being a cynic!) The only trouble was, I realized my real problem.
Here follows an excerpt from my journal:
“Last night I got three sodas when I was supposed to be quit. I ordered twice as much food as I needed. I carefully inserted that I minister to the sick and do communion services so I would seem like a better guy. I was condescending to my colleague. I purposefully looked away from a homeless person asking for money. I picked the hardest topic in class so I could show off my intelligence. I smoked too much. I was self absorbed when I cam home and did not focus on my family. I bragged to my mother about my service in the Church“
Look at that closely. My sin, is Pride. Even with the good things in my life, I’m still just a selfish brat. This is a glaring reality, and it’s 90% of my daily sin. Uh oh. The very sin that cast Lucifer from the heavens is my own as well. It’s rather terrifying to think I have more in common with him than with my Lord.
I share this in hopes that you do not cower at your own examine. We all have our very real problems, we are not perfect yet. We must at least know where we stand to fix ourselves though, so I very seriously recommend you do this.
What do I do? How about some easy to follow instructions?!
First, go to your nearest everything for a dollar or office supply store, and grab yourself a journal. Put it by your bedside, and then every night before you go to sleep, you run through your entire day. I promise it only takes five minutes, ten if you are a woman. (Women think a lot more then men, so they have more material.)
Go through every event in your day from start to finish, and write down everything you knew was a little off, or could have been done in a more holy manner. You are not going to publish this on a blog, so be truthful, you are the only one who is going to read this. If for some reason you forget, don’t sweat it, just pick up the book, and run through everything you have done since the last time you picked up the book.
Do this every day for a week, and you will know yourself better that you ever have before. Plus, now you have real fodder for your spiritual cannon. Load your guns, and get ready to brawl.
One last little thought. If you have ever read any of the the Saints, you know that they thought they were the worst sinners of all. This is because they really took the time to know themselves. If you think you are a basically good person, and all is just hunky-dory, I challenge you to be more like them, and realize you are far from it.