I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at doing an examination of conscience before I go to bed. I wish I was better and I’ve tried to employ countless ideas to aid with this shortfall, but I either forget or I fall asleep before I ever really get to examining my day. I think part of the reason is that I lay down in bed, after a long day, and now I realize that I have to go over that long day, back through all the classes, the times when I was supposed to wake up and run but instead slept for another half hour, and list all of the things that I did wrong that day. That’s not exactly the way I want to end my day.
I heard the other day that Mother Teresa’s examination of conscience consisted in asking herself where in her day that she found joy, where in her day that she did not find joy, and why that was. It has been an immense help. I won’t lie and say that I always remember to do it now, but I find that it is much more helpful and revealing to myself than the other methods I’ve tried.
For example: One day I was thinking about the times that I found joy in my day last week. One that I came up with was going on a four mile run in the morning. I’m training for a half marathon, and I had to wake up way before the sun came up because in Kansas it is ridiculously hot and muggy even when the sun isn’t out, so running before the sun comes up is my only option. It was hard to get up and it was hard to run four miles, because if you know me, you know that I’m not a natural runner. But afterwards I had found so much joy in it because it was something I had committed to doing and I wanted to do it, even though it was hard and not fun. On the flip side, later that day I ate an obscene amount of M & M’s (whoever’s idea to have a “chocolate bowl” at our house clearly knows the weaknesses of college girls) and you know what? I did not get a single ounce of joy in that moment. It told me a lot about myself and also gave me more motivation for my training.
So, if you have difficulties with doing an examination of conscience, I would recommend trying Mother Teresa’s way, because for me, it is particularly illuminating and life-giving.