What is an Examination of Conscience?

rainbow clouds of pink, purple and blue in background with words Pray and Reflect written across them
by Breanne

February 24, 2023

As someone who has been a Catholic her whole life, I had never heard of such a thing. As someone in her 20s who explored other religions, I still have never heard of an examination of conscience. Don’t let this long phrase scare you. One you break it down it’s not all that scary.

And now, what is an examination of conscience? It is the practice to sit and reflect on one’s actions, words, thoughts, and behaviors. The Catholic church uses this spiritual practice as do many religious individuals.

Goal of Examination of Conscience

The goal of an examination of conscience is to identify where areas of personal growth are needed. Then, have the self-awareness to seek forgiveness. When in reflection, use specific questions to guide you for areas such as your relationship with others, time, resources, behavior towards others, personal values, and religious beliefs. An examination of conscience could be said to be similar to meditation with questions to guide you based on the 10 Commandments.

In the Catholic church, this is often used with sacraments of confession, where individuals confess their sins to a priest. However, even those outside of the catholic tradition may find value in regular self-reflection and examination of conscience for personal growth and ethical development.

church with cross stain glass window with light coming thru the cross window in church

Using the Ten Commandments to ask yourself these questions…

Ten Commandments

  1. I am the LORD your God.
    • Have I???
      • Loved someone or something more than God (money, power, sex, etc.)
      • Let something or someone more than God influence my choices.
      • Been involved in superstitious practices (ex. fortune tellers, horoscopes, etc.)
      • Engaged in the occult (ex. Seances, ouija board, Satan)
      • Left the Church
      • Rejected Faith or sound of faith
      • Protected by faith
      • Denied the existence of God
      • Disobey God, church, and other commandments.
  2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
    • Have I?
      • Used the name of God in cursing?
      • Committed perjury? (Breaking an oath or lying under oath)
      • Blamed God for my failings?
      • Behaved disrespectfully in church?
      • Watch television, movies, music, and books, that treat God and the church in unseen ways?
      • Use vulgar, suggestive speech?
  3. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day
    • Have I?
      • Set time aside each day for personal prayer to God?
      • Habitually come late and/or leave early from Mass without good reason?
      • Missed church on Sunday or Holy Days (without good reason?)
  4. Honor your father and mother.
    • Have I?
      • (If still under my parents’ care) obeyed all that my parents reasonably asked of me?
      • (If in school) obeyed the reasonable demands of my teachers?
      • Neglected the needs of my parents in their old age or in their time of need?
      • Neglected to give my children proper food, clothing, shelter, education, and care?
      • Prayed with and for my children?
      • Have I supported or voted for politicians whose positions are opposite of the church?
      • Showed my children how to be good Christians?
  5. You shall not kill.
    • Have I?
      • Unjustly and on purpose killed a human being?
      • Been involved indirectly or directly with abortion?
      • Supported, promoted, or encouraged suicide?
      • Seriously considered or attempted suicide?
      • Hated or wished evil upon another person?
      • Joining a hate group?
      • Driven recklessly or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
      • Abused alcohol or other drugs?
      • Been mean to someone?
      • Delighted in seeing someone else get hurt or suffer?
      • Verbally or emotionally abused another person?
  6. You shall not commit adultery.
  7. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
    • Have I? ( These two commandments ask a lot of the same questions)
      • Practiced the virtue of chastity?
      • Given in to lust (outside of marriage?)
      • Refused to be open to conception?
      • Committed adultery (Sexual relations with someone who is married or not your spouse)
      • Listen to music, movies, and jokes, that are harmful to purity?
      • Purchased, viewed, or made use of pornography?
      • Committed incest – Sexual relations with a relative or in-law.
      • Committed fornication – Sexual relations when neither is married.
      • Engaged in homosexual activity – Sexual activity with someone of the same sex.
      • Committed Rape?
      • Engaged in impure thoughts, uninvited or unwelcomed sexual advances toward another, seduced someone, or allowed yourself to be seduced?
      • Engaged in unnatural sexual activities, paid for services, or participated in prostitution?
    • Depending on your religion, other items that could fall under this would be masturbation, sexual foreplay for marriage, artificial means of birth control, and sterilizing sex organs for marital rights, without just cause.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
    • Have I?
      • Stolen?
      • Given generously to others in need?
      • Purposefully defaced, destroyed, or lost another’s property?
      • Cheated on a test, taxes, sports, games, or in business?
      • Squandered money in compulsive gambling?
      • Make a false claim to insurance?
      • Failed to make good on debt or contract?
      • Paid employees a living wage?
      • Took advantage of another’s ignorance?
      • Used the money God provided to benefit others?
      • Wished you had what another has?
  10. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    • Have I?
      • Lied?
      • Gossiped?
      • Write or said lies about another person?
      • Failed to speak out in defense of people or the church?
      • Betrayed another’s confidence through speech?

Overall, when you are sitting down in prayer or asking God for your forgiveness of sins and you are struggling, think back to these Ten Commandments that came down from the mountain with Moses. Sitting and reflecting in prayer help you become the best version of yourself.

many hands black and white, asian, man and women have hands folded together in prayer with a holy bible in the center

Want something to be able to print off and take with you, I got you covered with this printable worksheet here.

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