Self Examination

Once we realize something needs to change, we then need to pinpoint what exactly should be changed. First we acknowledge that God alone has the power to help us change, then we must start tuning in to the movements in our thoughts and actions for this is how we discern what we need to work on. Daily self examination is recommended. We should be doing this throughout the day, but especially at the end of the day taking a general inventory is needed. Through an introspective consideration of one's own thoughts, desires, actions and emotions, we take a moral inventory. This requires a close look at how we sin in thought, word, and action. This would also include examining things in the day that caused anxiety, frustration, dissatisfaction, and despondency. If done with complete honesty the sins and passions that cause us harm will be revealed. Only then can look our mistakes square in the eyes and, as St. John Chrysostom says, condemn them, “for he who condemns his sins is slower to fall into them again.”

If we can self reflect, we can often discover the causes. Initially we may tend to blame a situation or another person, but in the end, we are solely accountable for our interior disturbances.

In frequent self examination we may see patterns of deeply roots passions and habits. This helps us to see where we must swing the axe to chop the passion down. A simple prescribed self examination loosely based on the one used by St. John of Kronstadt can be seen here.

“Every genuine confession humbles the soul. When it takes the form of thanksgiving, it teaches the soul that it has been delivered by the grace of God.”

-- St. Maximos the Confessor

“Your faith in the holy sacrament of confession will save you; the grace of God present in the sacrament of confession will heal you. By constant and persistent attacks upon us the fallen spirits try to sow and grow in us the seeds of sin to habituate us to some form of sin by frequently reminding us of it …. Against the persistent and repeated attacks of sinful thoughts and emotions, called in monastic language conflict, there is no better weapon for a novice than confession.”

--St Ignatius Brianchaninov

"My child, do you want to crush the head of the serpent? Openly reveal your thoughts in confession. The strength of the devil lies in cunning thoughts. Do you hold on to them? He remains hidden. Do you bring them to the light? He disappears. And then Christ rejoices, the prayer progresses, and the light of grace heals and brings peace to your mind and heart."

--Elder Joseph the Hesychast