Most of us have areas in our life where we could use improvement. New Year’s Resolutions are so popular because every year there are still things about ourselves that we want to change or improve. But part of growth is looking honestly at our life, our actions, our habits, and seeing where we are falling short. And that can be tough because it’s so easy to dwell on all the things we’ve done wrong, all the ways we have failed, and not see any road forward.
So how do you practice self-reflection without getting weighed down by the guilt, the embarrassment, the negativity? Recently on The Joe Sikorra Show, Joe and Fr. Dave Heney were discussing how to avoid getting weighed down by guilt and shame, and Fr. Dave shared how a daily examination of conscience can play a key role in growing and making real change this Lenten season and beyond. Fr. Dave said:
“No one’s going to walk up to someone who has a reputation of being harsh, critical, judgmental, cynical, scathing, sarcastic … no one’s going to walk up to a person like that and say ‘Let me tell you all the mistakes I’ve made.’ Because you know that person is just going to drill in and make you feel horrible. Jesus had that knack of letting people feel comfortable that they could acknowledge their sinfulness to Him, and they could be very truthful with themselves, knowing that our Lord wanted them to do that, yet still loved them.
We start every Mass with the Penitential Rite. The very first thing we do at Mass after the greeting is ‘I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters…’. You will do a great job on that if you first reflect on the love that Jesus has for you. That’s what frees you to say everything. That’s what gives you the courage to acknowledge what you’ve done wrong. That’s what gives you the confidence to be able to look at yourself completely, fully, honestly, and accurately, because you know that our Lord will always love you.
I have what I call ‘Father Dave’s Law’ and it is that anything negative you find out about yourself is always good news. Because now you know it, you recognize it, and now you can take steps to finally change it. It’s what you don’t know about yourself, or don’t recognize, or don’t accept, that hurts you.
So first connect with the love of God for you, and then that gives you the courage to be completely, utterly honest with yourself at the beginning of Mass, and of course every day during this season of Lent. That is what this season of Lent is about – looking at ourselves honestly and the changes we need to make.
… If you’re out of practice, if you rarely look at yourself and do an examination of conscience, then it becomes an ossified habit, you just lose the knack of how to do it and you end up never doing it. But if you do it every day it becomes very easy. That’s why every single Mass begins with this Penitential Rite. The Church hopes that it becomes an easy exercise, that it’s not that difficult, it’s not pulling teeth. That very quickly and very easily you can look at yourself with a very honest, clear, authentic, and accurate eye and see yourself as you actually are. See yourself as other people see you, see yourself as God sees you.
If you make that a practice every day (and certainly take it seriously at Mass) it becomes easier and easier, and you find out how healthy it is for you.”
Listen to the full conversation with Fr. Dave and Joe below:
The Joe Sikorra Show airs weekdays from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. Pacific on Immaculate Heart Radio.