One of my ongoing struggles in the Christian life is examining my conscience. Actually, our whole household currently struggles with this spiritual practice. Of the three of us who have reached the age of reason, one of us struggles with over-examining their conscience, one of us under-examines, and one of us just gets overwhelmed by the sheer number of faults they have and freezes up. This usually comes to a head when we are preparing to go to Confession together as a family.
As a way to revisit and refresh what is currently a frustrating practice, I thought it might be nice to take a step back from the nitty gritty and look at the big picture of my last year. And who knows, maybe I’ll find a more meaningful New Year’s resolution than normal from it to boot!
Here are a few questions I came up with, starting with the things that went well this year. Giving thanks for all of the beauty of the year helps set the tone for the upcoming 365 days. Also, for those of us prone to over-analysis and negativity, starting off in a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving can only help us fight those temptations.
The past year
Looking back on your year, name a few moments that you were the proudest of in three categories. For these questions, the more specific you are, the more clearly you can see and appreciate the good that unfolded.
Did you accomplish anything you are proud of big and/or small — at work, at home, in your neighborhood, at your parish?
Did you grow your relationship with someone in your life it is difficult to love? How did you grow in friendship this year? If you are a parent or spouse, in what ways did you love your spouse and/or your kids well?
How did you make time for God this year?
The upcoming year
Then, taking the same questions, what are some ways you maybe didn’t succeed this year that you can pinpoint for next year? Did you have any big defeats or disappointments in your work life or home life? Any big friendship frustrations or issues with family? What about in your spiritual life? Did you recognize any patterns of sin that came to light?
And finally, using the highs and lows of the year, what would be good goals for this upcoming year in those same categories?
Spend some time considering what wounds are present in your life. Is there a place of brokenness that has reared its head in the past year that you can start to explore and seek healing?
How can you grow your relationship with someone it is difficult for you to love? Maybe determining who that person is would be a good first step. What is one practical way you can grow in friendship this year? Are there friendships you have that you want to invest in more? Are there new acquaintances you have that you can work to move towards friendships?What is one practical way you can love your spouse better this year? Your children?
What is one way you can make time for God in your day this year?
If these questions spark better questions or insights that are more applicable to your life, wonderful! I will end my time of reflection with a quick prayer thanking the Holy Spirit — looking forward to the joys and challenges of a new year.