How to make a good
examination of conscience
a simple way to see how we are failing to be perfect (sinning)
What Would The Saints Do?
If we want to make a good examination of our conscience we need to look into our lives to see how we aren’t living like the saints. God and the saints are the examples we are to follow so we can learn what is sinful and what isn’t. “Be imitators of me [St. Paul], as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Therefore, a sin is anything we think, speak or do that a real self-sacrificing saint wouldn’t do or anything a saint would have thought, said or done that we chose to not do (sins of omission).
If we honestly look into our hearts, we will find a lot of what we do isn’t in accord with a true saint’s choices. They are sins.
What Is A Sin?
To help us see all the ways we aren’t like a perfect saint, so we can see, confess and amend our sins, we need to read The Word and learn what the saints would do by reading about their lives. But outside of doing that, we need to know more concretely WHAT IS A SIN: A sin is anything we do, think or say that isn’t to LOVE GOD. Yes, our sins aren’t just the typical “wrong things” we do. They are all the ways we don’t love God.
So, if we aren’t “love[ing] the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) with whatever we think, say or do, we are actually sinning.
The saints never wanted to offend God and gave their entire lives towards striving to perfectly love Him (to never offend Him again).
We, however, like to “say” we love God, yet our actions prove something quite different. Therefore, if we want to love God (to not offend Him), we want to examine our conscience to see our sins, not only so we can confess them, but most importantly so we can stop them. Then we will begin to REALLY love God too.
A sin, even the slightest, is an act of hatred, not love, towards God. This is true. Of course the more serious the sin the greater hatred is exhibited towards God, but please don’t think our seemingly small sins are no big deal, since we hate God (Goodness) through them too, because we chose evil (sin) instead of loving God.
Now, to examine our conscience well, we want to see all the ways we don’t love/hate God. There are many ways we fail to love God. When we desire our will and not God’s, we sin. When we break God’s commands, His directions on how to love Him, we sin. When we do something for our honor and glory, and not for the glory of God, we sin. When we live to please ourselves (self-love), and not to please God, we sin.
Frankly, when we don’t follow God’s will, we are breaking His command, and living to please ourselves, which is certainly not for His glory but our own. Therefore, all of those sins, which seem separate, are actually all linked together. I just separated them so we can better see our offences, since we tend to think of them as separate transgressions, when they are really just one: self-love/pride. Yes, it is our pride that kills us.
Happiness is Found in Loving God (Not Sinning)
Our entire life is supposed to be spent finding our happiness in loving God and not though sin, ourselves, or the world. And when we don’t do that, we are sinning.
But coming to see all the ways we don’t love God (sin) can be quite hard, since we have either been misguided by others or ourselves into thinking something sinful isn’t a sin or into thinking something not sinful is a sin… and have spent our lives finding happiness through things that are offensive to God.
Sadly, most of our lives have been spent not even recognizing the majority of ways we offend God (don’t love Him). It takes time and grace to come to see how we offend God, and still even with great desire and effort… only God knows the whole truth of our sinfulness.
But to help enlighten us, so we can make a better examination of our conscience and come to see more clearly our sinfulness, I’m going to begin to explain the more profound ways that we sin that most people don’t understand as being sinful, which are preventing us from perfectly loving God.
Then after we come to understand what our goal needs to be–what sinning no more looks like (what a perfect saint is)–we can actually begin to confess and leave what is preventing us from obtaining this goal.
Of course, when we begin to leave our sins, we will start with our most grave sins we have and confess and rid them first. But with examining our conscience correctly, it is very helpful if we know the goal, so we can understand what is hindering us from obtaining it.
It is pretty easy to see our outbursts of anger, impatience and rudeness… which are those basic failings where we lack “kindness.” But even with seeing these, for may of us it is hard, since we have become so good at covering our sins and see ourselves in a different light than who we really are. And some of us, who were born without a great inclination towards those vices, have never or rarely even suffered from those sins. But, regardless sin is sooooo much more than just that.
Yet never forget, sins aren’t just the wrong things we do, they are how we don’t love God. So, even if we hurt another with our wrong actions, we more greatly hurt/offended Our Beloved Lord with every wrong choice we make.
This is the MOST important fact we need to remember. We must care about this, and grow in faith to where not wanting to offend God, because we want to love Him, becomes the driving force for why we want to examine our conscience, confess and leave our sins or we will never obtain a saving faith.
Our Wrongful Intentions Matter A LOT
To examine our conscience well, we want to see the commonly understood “wrong things” we know as sins that we do, like: lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, etc., since we surely don’t do those to love God. And a list of the common known sins we commit are listed at the end of this article to help us see them within ourselves. But again sin is much more than that.
To begin to see the more unknown sins, we need to look at our wrongful intentions for why we do what we do.
Everything we do, for it to not be sinful, needs to be done to LOVE GOD. Therefore, to see how we are failing to do this, we need to ask ourselves why we thought, said or did or didn’t do to see if it was truly to love God.
We might say, “Well, I didn’t do what I did to hate God.” But, honestly, anything we do that isn’t intentionally to love God, isn’t to love Him. Our free will must want to love God, if we are to actually love Him.
Plenty of people do things that aren’t “technically” wrong and could even be great acts of love for another, but if we don’t do them with the intention to love God, nothing truly good has been done. We see great acts of love and sacrifice done many times by people of faith and no faith, who are just doing what they do to be a “good” person or to do the “right thing” and those are NOT done to love God. Unless our heart consciously chooses (through prayer) to do each thing we do to love God it isn’t truly good.
But for most of us doing something to love God really hasn’t been a thought in our minds, so the reason why we do everything needs to change, since anything we do that isn’t to love God, isn’t truly good.
By nature, from the consequences of Adam and Eve, our bodies choose sin (self-love)… It is grace alone that moves us to choose good. Therefore, without God’s grace moving us and our free will choosing it, we are grossly inclined towards evil and will always choose self-love.
For example: even with going to Church, most do not go to love God. Sure plenty of us are deceived into believing it is to love God, since we feel we love God. But feeling love for God and actually loving God are two very different things. We feel love for God because of all of the good He has done for us, and we might go to Church to experience His love, but that isn’t how we love God. We actually love God by not offending Him.
Yet, who, in this time of darkness, goes to Church so to not offend God, so we can love Him. We go out of habit/commitment, or from a desire to be “good”, or to see our friends, or to get God’s help, etc. and we might even attend because we think we have to since God commands us to go. And we do have to attend Mass since God told us to, because that helps to save us from Hell. But our reasoning needs to mature from that, so we can go to Church mainly to love God.
So, how do we love God? Well, just “saying” I love you or doing something “good” doesn’t love Him. Endless hearts “say” we love God, since we feel God’s love for us and feel love for Him, but frankly, our words are daggers into God’s Sacred Heart, since they come from proud, loveless hearts…. hearts that aren’t sincerely trying to not offend Him.
Again, to truly love God, we must consciously want to love Him, which means we must think (pray) if what we are saying or doing is for the Love of God and according to His will (what He wants us to be doing right now), and for His glory (not our own)… and from there we need to advance in our thinking/faith into thinking, saying and doing all so God’s grace can be sent from our act of love to help souls (us and others) to not offend Him… to grow into a saving faith.
We might think this is impossible, but once we start to advance in our faith, we will see how what once seemed not possible will be very close at hand.
There are many ways we do good, but for the wrong reason (not to love God or seek the salvation of His children). Of course if we choose to do something mean–an act of malice–towards another that is a graver sin than if we choose to be kind but for the wrong reason. But regardless, anything we do that isn’t to love God… helping to save souls isn’t Truly good.
“I’m going to clean my floor to the very best of my ability for the love of You Lord” we say to God, since cleaning my floor is what God wills me to be doing right now, knowing God can send grace to help save others souls from my love.
But please know, God doesn’t need our love… we do. God needs nothing from us. We, sinful souls, need grace from our thoughts, words and deeds of love to help move us to Life, which is what God wants. So when we pray or do anything to love God, the benefit from that goes to ourselves and our neighbor… helping us to be with God forever, which is all God desires.
But again, who, in this time of darkness, goes to church wanting grace so to not offend God, not because we want a better life on earth, since we see our sins hurting us, but because we want to stop hurting God with our sins?
Who is praising God for the grace and His Word He has sent to help us to not offend Him… so we can learn how to love like Him? Anyone? Therefore, our understanding of Love (the faith) and our desire to love needs to change in ALL we do.
But we can’t examine our conscience and just say I need to change everything, since we have never truly loved God in anything… and sure we do need to change everything, but we need to be much more concrete than that or we won’t know what our individual sins are so we can work towards amending them.
To see the ways we don’t love God–what is preventing us from becoming a perfect saint–let’s ask ourselves, WHY we do what we do. Like, why did I have that cup of coffee, eat that yummy breakfast, wear those stylish clothes, buy that nice watch or chat with my friend? Was it to LOVE GOD… or was it really to entertain, comfort and love myself? Yes, until we leave our life of self-love, everything we do will be to please ourselves.
By looking at why we do what we do, we can begin to see how our entire life has been to love ourselves… then one self-loving act at a time, we can seek Mercy for help to leave it, so we can love Him, who is all good and deserving of all our love.
Please know, since sin came into the world the only way we love God is through the cross–following the example He and His saints gave us. The saints hated the pleasures of the world since they pulled their hearts off of loving God and on to loving themselves. There is no greater love than to leave everything in this life we desire, so we can love God, so we can help save our neighbor from death.
Yes, the saints chose the cross so grace could be sent to help save His children (us included) from eternal doom through our love (sacrifice). This is the essence of the faith, not only to stop sinning so we won’t offend God, but to help others desire to stop sinning and love God for the salvation of their souls too. This is the actual purpose of God’s entire mission… to save souls. So, all the ways we aren’t doing this are our sins. To not sin, we need to follow Christ.
Please know, we can’t love God through indulging in the pleasures of this world. That is how we love ourselves. God made everything in the world and it is all good but instead of us using it to love God, because of our great inclination to sin, we use it to love ourselves. Therefore, for us to use anything of the world and it not be sinful, it needs to be used to help us know, love and serve God.
But beware, from our great love for the world, we will come up with a jillion reasons why we “need” something to help us love God, when in reality, we are only lying to ourselves so we can stay in our sins (self-love). And until grace comes upon us, we won’t even see all the ways we lie to ourselves. But those lies, if we persist in them until our death, will mean our eternal doom. We MUST learn how to be honest and desire to rid everything from our lives that doesn’t LOVE GOD, or we will reject God for the world. Please don’t be deceived.
Frankly, there is much involved in how we are to reject the world and live for God. There are specific steps that one goes through to do that. For a beginner, we can’t avoid all worldly pleasures. That would not bring a new convert the unfathomable happiness that comes from living the faith correctly… for only wanting to surrender everything to love God would… and it takes much grace to obtain that kind of love for God.
So giving up pleasure for God out of doing what is right, won’t gain Life or even spiritual growth, unless we change the other broken parts of our life (are removing other sins and desire to sin no more) that are keeping us from doing all for the love of God. Therefore, to learn more please read “How to Reject the World and Live for Heaven.” or “How to Become a Saint.”
But, anytime we aren’t loving like Christ and are enjoying the pleasures of the world to love ourselves–since it won’t truly help us know, love or serve Him–we aren’t doing anything truly good and are actually sinning (not loving God).
Yes, when we run from the cross, we are doing the opposite of what Christ and the saints did. To come to perfectly love God–to sin no more–every moment of our lives needs to be spent loving God.
Perfection comes when our hatred for sin becomes so great, when our love for God becomes so fantastic, that not only do we reject sin (truly hate all sin: would sincerely rather suffer torment than sin), we also desire the cross (reject our self-loving will) at all moments, and joyfully carry the cross (even long for suffering) for the salvation of souls, as we have seen manifest in many saints.
Therefore, to do all to love God, so grace can move us, we never want to be so focused on what we are doing to where we aren’t with God, loving Him, having Him work through us in all we do. Our mind needs to be united and attached to God at all moments. Therefore, since our natural desire is that of self-love, if we want all we think, say or do, to become that of love for God, we need to be in unceasing prayer.
May I remind you, this is the life we aspire to achieve (perfection)… in the beginning of our conversion, we won’t even really understand this correctly and may confuse much of what is and isn’t love. And that is to be expected. However, if we find ourselves being in distress or in despair over our sinfulness, we are doing something wrong.
Conversion from death to Life, from Life to sanctity, from sanctity to perfection, doesn’t bring despair; it bring true hope. When we come to really understand the person we were really called to be but have so greatly fallen away from achieving, and are really riddled in unrepentant sin, we won’t despair.
We will rejoice in God for enlightening us to the truth so we don’t die blind, and then we TRUST in Him, who has made the promise to save us, to transform us one sin at a time, into a faith that can save, as long as we persist in seeking Him until the end.
To help us to learn how to love God, so to obtain a saving faith and perfection, God has a plan, which is called His will. God’s will exists for every moment of our lives. The more perfectly we follow and accept it the quicker we obtain a saving faith. sanctity and perfection.
To obtain this goal, God knows what we should be thinking, saying and doing at all instances. Seeking to surrender our will perfectly–at all moments–for God’s will (what He allows and what He wants us to do), through unceasing prayer, is how we can find and walk on the path to Life.
To examine our conscience so to see how we aren’t living for God’s will, we need to learn how to discern what God’s will is. This can be quite a challenge.
However, some of God’s will is easy to see. Obviously, God doesn’t will us to spend any of our moments committing any sin, since sin not only doesn’t love God, it rejects God’s grace, which is the grace we need to find and walk correctly on the path to Life.
But since sin is so dynamic, we need to separate them into different categories. The way we break God’s will, which is the easiest to see, again are the typical sins we all understand, like being immoral, hateful, greedy, etc. But, as we know, God’s will is much more than that.
But the part of God’s will we are going to focus on is trying to see how we aren’t doing what He wants us to do at any specific moment in time. For example: should we sleep in or get up on time, should I go check my email or do the dishes, should I call the angry customer or put it off till tomorrow, should I pray or watch TV, should I do what I want or what someone else wants, etc.
For every choice we make, God knows what the correct choice is that we should be making.
If we are going to learn how to see how we are falling to follow God’s will, we need to know what God and the saints would do if they were in the same situation as us. Yes, learning what a true saint would do plays a BIG role in correctly discerning God’s will properly. This is because the devil lives to deceive us into thinking we are doing what is good and right, when it is FAR from being what a true saint would do.
But please know, it is not easy to live for God’s will. We like our will; we want what we want; we like to take the easy, cross free, path… putting off what we should be doing to do what we want is common place.
But to see and stop these sins, we need to look into seeing what we should have done but didn’t do… and confirm it with The Word and the saints, not our friend or our neighbor, who might mean well, but are lost and don’t know The Way (what is good or bad, sin or virtue) themselves.
How Am I Acting?
One of the easiest ways to see our sins is to look into our emotions… especially any moment we aren’t happy.
Please know, if we praise God only when things go our way, when things go well, then we know we are self seeking (seek our will) and don’t trust in God. If we TRULY trust in God, in all He allows as leading to our good, then we praise God in ALL moments of our life–especially for the crosses, knowing God intends to use it to teach, correct and mold us into the saint we are called to be.
But to begin to see our sins, let’s look into why we are upset? Did we not get what we want? Did someone treat us poorly? Did someone correct us? Did something go wrong? Going through our thoughts and actions throughout our day, to see how we responded to life’s circumstances will tell us A LOT. Of course we can be sad at our and others sins or if we are missing someone we love, or if a tragedy occurs, but at the same time we are to be in peace knowing it is God’s will and good. It is our lack of peace and acceptance of God’s Divine Providence which is where our sins lie.
If we are upset because we didn’t get what we want, then we are self seeking (we want our will) and not what God allowed, trusting He knows what is best and will make everything good, when and how He desires. If we are upset because someone treated us poorly, we are self-absorbed (seeking to be loved, not to love).
Let me explain: Let’s say you are working and someone yells at you and demeans you, calling you stupid and is very disrespectful towards you. If this treatment bothers you then you aren’t responding like God or the saints, who didn’t focus on themselves, but focused on the poor person who is lacking so much grace that they can’t love. The saints bore the cross, silently patiently, for the salvation of another. So, when someone treated them poorly, their focus was how they can HELP THEM, not how they can remove the cross and be treated well.
If we respond to bad with bad, we are no better than them (have no greater grace than them), and if our heart wants to criticize them, it needs to criticize ourselves as well. Anytime we see a sin within another, to not be proud, we need to look into ourselves and see how we are no better (just different).
Also, how we respond to the good that happens in our lives allows us to see our pride. If our happiness becomes elevated when someone complements us, when things go well, when we partake in a worldly pleasure, etc. then that allows us to see how loving God isn’t our source of happiness but rather many other things.
Sure it is acceptable to be happy when good happens (not overly happy, but pleased). For example: Let’s say our child does well in school, sure there is no sin in being happy with that. But what happens is we make our source of happiness our children… it can be from their success or affection. If we can be honest without ourselves, we can easily see this. But if we can’t, it is even more clearly displayed when we become upset when they fail or treat us poorly, because when we lose our source of happiness, we aren’t happy.
If we aren’t self-seeking and don’t desire to love and serve ourselves, through things other than God, our demeanor should be the same for the good and the bad… knowing all is just part of God’s Heavenly perfect plan. And regardless of what happens, we should be seeking God’s help for the good and the bad alike, so we can come to perfectly love Him through it all.
Outside of that, we need to look into why we say what we say… was I looking for pity, complements, approval, appreciation, love, attention, entertainment… are we trying to build up ourselves, living to love ourselves or God? Or did I utter only what was needed… to do my job well for the love of God and the salvation of souls?
Next, we need to look into our constant thoughts. To not have our thoughts be that of sin, we need to eliminate all thoughts that aren’t talking with God, contemplating Him, or His Word, or His will, loving Him or in prayer for the salvation of souls… everything else is self-seeking (that of pride).
Another supper simple way to begin to start seeing our sins is to just look at a list of some basic sins.
more coming soon