Sidelights on Self

Alfred Wilson, CP
Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, 1946


TO HELP in the work of ambushing self-deceit, an examination of conscience has been compiled. It is by no means exhaustive and is meant principally as an indication of the type of things on which we should examine ourselves. In our examens we should definitely get down to brass tacks and not content ourselves with reading through a list of abstract nouns and phrases. If we conduct our search wisely, we shall probably find more than enough matter to engage our attention. It would be a mistake to read right through this list at one session; the reader should stop as soon as he finds enough to "go on with" or the result might be discouragement or scrupulosity. "One thing at a time" is a safe rule and the only safeguard against superficiality.
The examen is intended for use in the periodical overhaul, not in preparation for confession, unless the penitent has difficulty in finding matter.
We have a duty to conform as far as possible to the real (objective) law of God, not to what we think is the law of God. Many of the faults on our lists may not hitherto have seemed wrong to us, and we may have fallen into them without consciousness of sin. In that case, we did not sin against God, though we transgressed against the letter of the law. However, we must live and learn. Even unconscious faults harm us and scandalize others, so it is our duty to try to eliminate them. Conscience is one of the greatest mysteries and it is for each individual, and no other except the confessor, to try to determine his (or her) exact culpability before God. Whether our faults have been indeliberate, semi-deliberate or fully deliberate, we must do our best to combat them.

Even though this list is not exhaustive, if anyone can read through it without finding matter for confession, he must be a great Saint or spiritual purblind.


recounting an argument or a quarrel was I strictly truthful and just; or did I make deliberate omissions which threw everything I said out of perspective?

Were the brilliant retorts I narrated suggested by afterwits, what I should have liked to have said, not what I actually did say?

If so, do not simply confess lies, but lies occasioned by vanity and a desire to "show off."

Did I pretend to read a book, when in reality I had read only a review of the book?

Have I made statements as "gospel," of which I was not certain or which I had at third or fourth hand?

In relating my own sayings and doings, have I exaggerated my success and minimized or explained away my failures?

One can act as well as tell a lie.

Have I feigned intense welcome or friendship for someone I really detested? (To show a genial charity is virtue, to pretend special friendship or pleasure is hypocrisy.)

Have I developed a habit of dissimulation, making mental reservations not only without sufficient reason but almost without any reason?

Have I have been affected and put on airs?


Has my spirituality been merely a quest for personal excellence?

Am I seeking a reputation for humility rather than the reality of humility?

Have I failed to take leadership or strong action for fear of being though proud or ambitious? In other words, do I prefer to be proud rather than to be though proud?

Have I fished for praise with the bait of false modesty?

Have I refused responsibility for fear that prominence might reveal my limitations?

Are the main causes of my joys and sorrows the gratification or frustration of vanity?

When anyone is praised, is my first impulse always to belittle; in other words, do I suffer from jealousy based on pride?

Have I boasted of my achievements, wealth, et cetera? Dressed ostentatiously?

Have I been too proud to accept well-merited correction, even from my confessor? When I have been corrected have I sulked and adopted the pose of the misunderstood injured-innocent? Have I dispensed myself from from heeding a correction by presuming that my superior or confessor was merely depressed or liverish and that he will get over it?

Is my neighbor a darling when he agrees with me, and a pig-headed egoist when he doesn't?

Am I something of a "private pontiff"?


Have I stolen other people's books by borrowing and not returning them?---a particularly mean thing to do if the book is out of print. Lapse f time doe snot give the borrower-thief a prescriptive right to possession: "res clamat domino"---"the books calls for its owner"---indefinitely.

Have I owned and paid up if I have broken or damaged anything belonging to another---or allowed someone else to be blamed?

Have I driven my housekeeper, wife or mother to distraction by hopeless irregularity, e.g., by coming in late for meals?---and then added insult to injury by complaining about the cooking?

Have I caused small tradesmen inconvenience and possibly fairly serious financial embarrassment by endless delay in settling accounts?

Have I forgotten that charity is of obligation in business relations. Have I stopped short at a dubious justice, always driving the hardest bargain, taking advantage of the necessity of others to pay scarcely equitable prices or starvation wages? Has my comfort been bought by blood money?

Have I gained a reputation as a generous benefactor to the Church with money that was not my own, money due in justice to my employees, defrauded money crying to Heaven for vengeance?

Have I taken advantage of the minimum wage to do the minimum of work?

Have I been seriously unjust to my employer by creating dissatisfaction or grossly exaggerating minor grievances?

Have I subscribed to the false doctrine of inevitable class warfare?

Have I shown grave irresponsibility by advocating or supporting strikes, without sufficient reason and before amicable attempts at a settlement had been made?

Have I smoked to excess, to the detriment of my health, my family, my honesty?
Am I incurring debts which, if I maintain my present rate of expenditure, I shall never be able to repay? That is, am I stealing under false pretences?

Does my addiction to the cinema amount to a mania, undermining my self-control? In order to go to the cinema, do I neglect my duty, half-doing housework, leaving the children to roam the streets, and failing to prepare proper meals for my husband?
Am I careful about the films I allow my children to see, or have I packed them off to anything just to get them out of the way?

Am I a snob? Do I believe in a caste-system? Have I failed to show respect to my social inferiors as children of God?

Have I treated servants or the working-class as though they were unworthy of a refined charity? Have I exacted overtime without paying for it? Have I expected servants always to be at my beck and call, and chosen to forget that they have need of and a right to decent recreation? Have I paid wages with a lordly air, as though I were doing my servants a


Have I sometimes laboured the good points of my adversary or enemy a little more than usual in order to emphasize my impartiality and so enhance the value of my indictment?
Have I displayed an unctuous, whitewashing, untruthful charity, motivated by a desire to increase my own reputation, rather than by a desire to safeguard my neighbour's?

When uncharitable things have been said of us or done to us, we are not thereby justified in broadcasting the fact. Theology allows us to relieve our minds by talking of the injury to one intimate, who can be relied upon to maintain a discreet silence --- no more. When one injury has been done to us, have we not often retaliated by inflicting ten injuries on our offending neighbour, and still continued to broadcast our misfortune and nurse the idea that we are the injured party? "It was unfair," "it was unjust," "she shouldn't have said it" --- these and suchlike excuses are no justification for uncharitable broadcasts.

Have I repeated things which might cause mischief? Have I, out of jealousy, vindictiveness or ambition, maliciously tried to create misunderstandings and ride on the crest of them to preeminence? Have I distorted what was said by inventions, innuendo or studied omissions?

Am I a destructive, carping critic, spreading discontent and disseminating gloom?

Am I well disposed toward all? If to love does not mean this, it is an empty sham. Have I been unforgiving? Do I habitually "cut" certain people? This is a serious matter. If we harbour an unforgiving spirit, we have no right to go to Holy Communion, Confession is a mockery, and whenever we recite the "Our Father," we invoke upon ourselves not a blessing but a curse.
Has my charity to individuals been limited or paralysed by excessive nationalism? Have I hurt and scandalized my neighbour by habitually "running down" his country or by refusing to accept or admit my responsibilities as a citizen of his country? Have I shown favouritism to compatriots? Have I adopted the my-country-right-or-wrong attitude?

Do I gossip? Do I constantly give inside information prefacing my remarks with the rhetorical question: "Have you heard?" and obliging my neighbour to inviolable secrecy?

Is my conversation almost invariably about persons, scandals? Is my conversation limited to personalities because my head is empty? An idle mind exposes us to greater danger than idle hands. If "the devil finds work for idle hands to do," how much more easily does he not find work for idle minds!

Is my mind empty because I am too full of myself? Have I ever tried to store my mind with suitable matter for conversation? The conversation of the empty-headed must be limited to puerilities --- "she said to me" and "I said to her," and suchlike fooleries.
Am I habitually disagreeable and discourteous at home? Do I make no serious attempt to be otherwise? Generous abroad, mean at home? --- in other words, is my generosity merely thinly veiled vanity?
Have I been wanting in charity by neglecting to answer letters or by answering only after an unnecessarily long delay?
Am I touchy and hypersensitive? Have I magnified the least oversight or thoughtlessness into an insult or deliberate slight?

Do I make a habit of righteous indignation and continually use strong and bitter language? Am I more concerned to punish and humiliate offenders than to repair and obviate the offence; in other words, are my righteousness and zeal merely camouflaged vindictiveness and bad-temper? Am I morose? unsociable? always complaining? haughty? contemptuous?
Am I always boasting about my principles and consistency? Am I too rigid in enforcing my rights, careless about my duties? especially the duty of patience and long-suffering?
Irritability? To feel irritable is no sin, but it is sinful to give way to it deliberately. Don't be content to confess irritability, find its cause.

Nerves? Get a tonic and practise patience. Anxiety? Practise trust in Divine Providence, et cetera.

Have my charities been nothing more than investments, designed to bring in a regular income of praise, gratitude and esteem?

Have you had a "row" with someone? Of course, he or she was entirely to blame! Are you quite certain that the Divine Judge thinks so? What is the use of bluffing yourself and others, even at Confession? What have you done to put things right? What are you ready to do? How many people have you told about it?

It will be amazing if there is no fault on your side. If you cannot get rid of a certain soreness from your will (N.B., I do not say "feelings "--- time alone can heal them), you are definitely not blameless.

When you were beaten in argument, did you cling obstinately to your own opinion, even though you knew it was wrong, because you were too proud to admit your mistake or afraid that your antagonist might think himself intellectually superior to you?

What were your thoughts about him afterwards? --- "He thinks himself a very smart chap, doesn't he?" How do you know?

Irritation will continue until you admit your share of blame. Quite possibly you are the only one to blame!

Have you made impossible demands on others and then lamented their selfishness because they could not accommodate you?


Have I realized that, if I do not see the facts of life from God's point of view, I must inevitably see them from the devil's point of view, since it is impossible completely to ignore them and maintain a merely negative attitude?
Have I a reverent attitude towards sex, or do I implicitly indict the Creator by dubbing sex "not nice"?

Do I realize that sex is a God-given talent to be used, either in the normal way of marriage or at least by sacrifice outside of marriage? To sacrifice sexual desires and give them back to God, we must first have the sincerity and humility to recognize that they are there to be offered. Have I tried to convince myself that I am "above that sort of thing" and so unconsciously adopted a pharisaical pose: "O, God! I give Thee thanks that I am not as the rest of humans"?

Has this pose led me to become a prude or a perambulating purveyor of salacious gossip?
Has my attitude to sex been cowardly and talent-burying, and so stunted and warped the development of my personality?
On the other hand, have I been careless about holy purity? Gone into avoidable occasions of sins? Allowed myself to be engrossed by human affections and lawful pleasures to such an extent as to acquire a distaste for the things of God, or merely to lose my spiritual freedom?

Is there anything I dare not discuss even with a broadminded, kindly, reliable and experienced friend? Is there anything I tend to gloss over in Confession? When one is driven to secrecy, there is usually something wrong. A person with no guilty suspicions would not be afraid to discuss his conduct with a prudent confessor.
Are you allowing your moral fibre to be weakened and endangered by inordinate affections? (N.B. Inordinate is not a synonym for intense. An affection may be very intense, without being inordinate. An affection is inordinate and a danger to chastity when "for no apparent reason, one wants to be in the presence of another and is unhappy in his or her absence.")

Conversation? reading? amusement? reveries?

Sensuous idleness, e.g., dawdling in bed? softness? excessive love of comfort?

Kissing, embracing? There are, of course, kisses and kisses. Kisses are permissible when they are not inspired by mere sensuality and selfishness and when there are sufficient safeguards, no scandal and no undue clandestinity; otherwise, they are a danger to chastity and therefore wrong. Prolonged petting is cheapening and dangerous and therefore wrong.


Have I exerted authority without accepting responsibility? Have I given a reasonable freedom of action to subordinates with delegated authority? Have I confused authority with personal infallibility and Divine inspiration, and so made authority an excuse for autocracy?

Have I deliberately surrounded myself with mediocrity, toadies and lick-spittles, and done my best to repress the talented and keep them in their place?

Have I shown abnormal care to safeguard the humility of brilliant subjects who might put me in the shade?

Have I resented humble, honest, face-to-face criticism and been vindictive towards those whose good advice I was too weak to follow?

Have I realized that no one can undermine authority as effectively as a superior who abuses it?

Have I posed as personallysuperior to my subjects and expected them to bow to me, not to the Divine authority in me? And by so doing, have I done my best to destroy their virility and spirit?

Have I mistaken obstinacy for firmness and fatuous narrow-mindedness for love of law?
Have I been fatuous enough to imagine that a multiplication of rules and petty restrictions will make people holy, and paid little or no attention to the cultivation of the interior spirit? Instead of leading, have I tried to drive people to God?
Have I been a coward in my exercise of authority? Have I been exigent and possibly harsh and unjust, with the weak and obedient; and falsely condescending to the forward, obstreperous and bitter-tongued? Have I bullied the weak and fawned on the strong?
Have I realized that my own authority is limited and to be exercised according to law?
Have I forgotten that with the Christian there is "no distinction of the Jew and the Greek"? Blinded by national prejudice, have I given preferment to compatriots irrespective of merits?
Have I reflected that for every abuse of authority I shall have to give a very strict account on the day of judgment?


Is my obedience natural or supernatural?

Do I play up to, blarney or try to engineer my superiors?


Have you spoiled your child by selfishly considering your own feelings, not the child's good?
Have you nagged? Have you got a "boss-complex"? Have you attempted to keep your child's confidence and form its mind? Have you considered your duty done when you have clothed and fed your child and seen that it goes to church?
Have you stunted your child's growth to maturity by making it too dependent or by selfishly trying to keep it a child when it was no longer a child?

Are your hot-house methods responsible for your child's shyness and awkwardness?

By not allowing your child to mix sufficiently with other suitable Catholics, have you made yourself, in part, responsible for a mixed-marriage?

Have you driven your children into lanes and back-alleys by not allowing them to bring their friends home?

Have you treated a prospective fiance as a rival for your child's affection and been unsympathetic and possibly unjust?

Have you abused your authority and exasperated your children by a gestapo regime? Have you made an unreasonable fuss when your children came in at night at a time generally considered reasonable for persons of their years? Have you made your children deceitful by excessive inquisitiveness or meanness, by wanting to know everything they have done, everywhere they have been and every penny they have to spend?
Have you scandalized your children by gossiping in their presence?

Has the amount of money you spent on cigarettes made you neglect your children's comfort and welfare?

Have you put pleasure before duty? Have you allowed your children to go without meals or roam the streets, whilst you went off to the cinema?
In setting up your children in life, i.e., in your choice of a school, in your approval or disapproval of their friends or beaus, have you been guided by absolutely practical considerations, i.e., by merely materialistic ones?

Have you been jealous of the piety of your children and done your best to repress it, inspired partly by the fear that they might give themselves to God?


Have I made no attempt to discover God's point of view about the intimacies of married life? Have I refused to inform myself because an obstinate pride makes me unwilling to admit that my ideas on so important a subject have been wrong, or because I shirk the mental labour of recasting my ideas at my time of life?

Do I regard intercourse as a sacramental act arranged and blessed by God; or have I instead a nasty, resentful, heretical, Manichean idea of it, causing me to harbour a secret grudge against God and a latent contempt for my spouse?
Have I habitually failed in my duty, by giving to intercourse only a reluctant and condescending acquiescence, and by my grudging attitude largely destroyed the value of such acquiescence?

Has my reluctance to give full sacramental and enthusiastic expression to my love loosened the bond of union (which it is designed to cement) and endangered the continence and marital fidelity of my spouse?

Have I been selfish in the refusal or performance of intercourse? Consulted only my own mood and never attempted to accommodate myself to my spouse's mood or done so only with the pose of a martyr to duty?

Intercourse is a duty whenever either party (1) seriously and (2) reasonably petitions for it. There is no obligation to accede to unreasonable petition; though --- be it noted --- a petition is not unreasonable merely because it finds you in an uncongenial mood.
For Men. In the preliminaries of intercourse, have I nauseated my wife by my complete failure to show a delicate and sensitive consideration for her feelings and desires? Have I ever tried to see intimate married life from her point of view? Refinement and unselfishness make intercourse attractive: crudity and selfishness make it repellant. Have I ever been mean enough to resort to moral compulsion and so sowed the seeds of hate?

Have I raised my mind to God during intercourse and humbly thanked Him for this pleasure, this sacramental expression of love, this complement of myself, and the privilege of co-operating with Him in the creation of a human being; or have I instead considered myself "outside the pale" and mentally skulked away from His presence and His love?
Have I been entirely sincere about my reactions to intercourse and not sometimes pretended that they were what I thought (wrongly) that they ought to be and were not? Has this insincerity been occasioned by a fear "to lose caste" in my own eyes? Do I realize that whilst the biological purpose of intercourse is procreation, the psychological purpose is the expression and preserving of a unique love, and that in consequence this unique expression of love may, and should, continue even when the biological purpose can no longer be subserved?
Have I interfered with nature's course? If deliberate, this is always a serious sin, no matter how it is done.

Have I formed my own conscience on this question, in direct opposition to the Church's teaching, and so implicitly repudiated her infallible authority? --- a fearfully serious sin, perilous to faith.

Have I deliberately --- and on principle --- omitted to mention these sins in Confession; and followed sacrilegious Confessions by sacrilegious Communions? Or have I confessed these sins when I had no genuine determination to amend my life and so nourished a false idea f of magical absolution, deceiving myself that as long as I managed to extract absolution from the confessor my sins would be forgiven without amendment?

Have I induced others to follow my example in this, and so acted as the devil's lieutenant and the enemy of Christ?

Have I guarded my pew as if I owned and not merely rented it?

Was I rude to harassed apparitors who requested me to allow others to use my pew? Did I even descend to rugby-scrum tactics to keep out trespassers?

Have I added to the scandal of disgusting selfishness by going immediately afterwards to Holy Communion before Mass, without having made any preparation?

Have I behaved in church as I should not be allowed to behave in a cinema or a bar?
Have I distracted others by endless whispering? Have I been annoyed by Miss Modern's lipstick, Mr. Goeasy's sprawling manner and Mrs. Gettingon's hat, forgetting that if I were minding my own business and saying my prayers I should not be likely to notice these things?
Have my genuflections suggested physical jerks or physical decrepitude rather than the worship of God?

Have I annoyed others by slipping into the confessional out of my turn?

Have I hurried over preparation for Confession, preoccupied all the time with the fear of being kept waiting or by the desire to get back home to do something infinitely less important, e.g., to read a thriller or spot a winner?

Have I been late for Mass through my own fault? To be late for Mass through one's own negligence is always a venial sin of irreverence towards the Blessed Sacrament and the Divine Victim; it is a mortal sin if one misses a principal part of a Mass of obligation, i.e., if one comes in after the Offertory.

"I accuse myself of having picked the sermon to bits in order to make fun of my parish priest."

"I accuse myself of having gone to hear the great preachers solely out of snobbery, because they were the rage ... of having sought everything in such displays but the knowledge of God." [1]

Have I been unpunctual through my own fault? To be unpunctual deliberately for no sufficient reason is against charity and fidelity to one's word or contract, and may be a sign of ingrained selfishness which always puts the ego first.

Moreover, unpunctuality is an occasion of sin for others, because, taking human nature as it is, rash judgment, uncharitable thoughts, irritability, grumbling and bad temper, are practically certain to result from it.

On the other hand, the punctual who are kept waiting, must remember that they are not dispensed from the duty of exercising patience and charity. They must repress unkind thoughts and rash judgments and smother the leaping volcanic fires of fury, or they will be guilty of venial sin. Hard, I know, but who said the spiritual life was meant to be uniformly easy? On no account must they assume a sulky, testy, condemnatory manner before an explanation has been given. or demand an explanation in the menacing manner of a prosecuting attorney, and so make an explanation morally impossible and extremely unlikely. It is not wrong, of course, to remonstrate kindly and moderately, if a satisfactory explanation is not given or even attempted.

Have I "talked down" to anyone?

Have I talked too much and strummed perpetually on the "I" note? Has my talking been motivated by the vain desire to stay in the limelight and convince my listeners what a wonderful, superior, admirable person I am? Have I talked principally and in fact almost exclusively about my own sayings and doings and ideas?

Do I talk with breathless haste so that others may not succeed in getting in a word edgeways?

Have I rudely interrupted conversation when it did not interest me or kept me in the background?

Have I been taciturn and talked too little? Have I adopted the pose of a sphinx, to convince others what pearls of wisdom I should proffer if only did I speak?

Have I developed an unduly ponderous personality and a one-track mind, as a result of despising small talk and not knowing how to relax?

[Web Master's note: The "despising of small talk" is a sticking point for those who are beginning an interior life or the serious desire for one. On the one hand they strive for holy silence, the avoidance of frivolity that comes with casual conversation; also the "small talk" usually involves the puerility counseled against above. So what to do? To consult a wise Traditional priest is your best course, and always pray before entering any social situation. If you despise small talk out of a desire to engage the silence of God, this is to your good, if you despise it because you are impatient with your neighbor or consider yourself above him, this is another thing. No matter how much we value silence and want to avoid aimless talk motivated by a love of God, it is charitable to be kind to one's neighbor in small things as well as big things. One merely avoids unnecessary social occasions if one's state in life permits, and when one must, one engages in small talk. It is the motive and the manner that matter. It may even provide an opportunity for sparking an interest in higher things to one's neighbor in the case that he does not already possess this desire, that is, is not engaging in small talk, but does so out of charity for you because he presumes you want to chat. Life is funny this way, is it not?]

Have I cultivated a sense of humour?

Have I been depressingly serious? The sour-faced are generally shallow and unbalanced and not serious, or are serious about the wrong things, like the Pharisees.


"I accuse myself of never having accused myself of religious ignorance, of not even offering any excuse therefore, so normal does such an omission seem."

"I accuse myself of having taken no interest whatever in Christian doctrine, upon the pretext of respecting the more its mysteries and sacred character."

"I accuse myself of not having loved God with my mind, and of having unconsciously repudiated Him, because to affect no interest in His life and revelation is tantamount to genuine atheism."

"I accuse myself of a strong inclination to think, without precisely admitting it, that religious knowledge is very nearly as boring as it is useless, and that it is not intended for people in the world."

"I accuse myself of not having in my house either the Bible or the New Testament; of never having read ... the Gospels through or any life of Our Lord."
"I accuse myself of having drifted into a worldly accommodation which enables the most repeated practices, in all sincerity, of a sensitive piety to be combined with an elegantly pagan state of mind and conception of life."
"I accuse myself of having laid up my talents in a napkin, like the servant in the parable, thinking them useless in regard to salvation, and dangerous to humility and discipline." [2]

"When we go to the cinema and see a picture about empty-headed people in luxurious surroundings, do we say, 'What drivel,' or do we sit in a misty dream, wishing we could give up our daily work and marry into surroundings like that?" [3]

Have I tried to make my ideas and outlook Christian? What attempt have I made to understand and assimilate my Faith --- a necessary preliminary to practising it?
What have I done to reintroduce Christian ideas into the world? I may not be able to do much, but surely I could do something.

How often have I worshipped, praised and thanked God? These are duties, habitual neglect of which shows a stunted religious mind and probably involves some sin.

Have I allowed myself to be engrossed by human affairs? Has my prayer almost entirely consisted of petitions for worldly favours, such as a better job or success in an examination; in other words, have I treated God as a useful business patron and nothing more?

Have I treated religion simply as a fire-insurance against Hell fire; or served God simply because I feared I should have no luck otherwise?

Have I ever solicited for my soul light and love? Have I ever made a really serious and sustained attempt to love God?

Have I "implored grace only as a means of salvation and not so as to be beautiful with the beauty of grace through living the life of grace"?

Have I "considered grace only as a lightning-conductor and not as a nuptial garment, as a guarantee and not a value"?

Have I "confused my spiritual life by a complicated ledger account of indulgenced prayers and practices," forgetting that "while formulas and practices are the symbol of indulgences, interior disposition is the cause"?

Have I treated prayer as an excellent substitute for personal effort, e.g., neglecting study and then staking all on a fervid novena before the examination and an attempt to bribe God by lighting lots of candles?

Has my devotion been an excellent labour-saving device, dispensing me, because of what I am, from the inconvenience and burden --- and distraction --- of attending to my social, civic and national duties? Have I done more than my bit to make piety contemptible?

Has my prayer been a veiled dictation to God or an attempt to barter with Him on a quid pro quo basis, and not the humble suppliance of a universal debtor?
Has my prayer been: "Not Thy will but mine be done, because I've had the decency to ask Thee to do it"?

When my prayer has apparently not been answered, have I felt a grudge against God? Have I expected a slot-machine answer to prayer and refused to pray with perseverance?

Have I neglected prayers for the dead? Have I thus abandoned in their agony those I love best?

Have I failed to realize that a Catholic owes it to his God, to his Church, to his time and to himself, to be of some value intellectually? Have I realized that a man is truly human only if he uses his mind?

Have I made no attempt to develop my personality, prudently refrained from having any opinions of my own not culled from fashionable periodicals? Have I attempted to realize my personal dignity as a child of God and to cultivate appreciation of the beautiful in nature, literature, art or music?
Fear of doing wrong is no excuse for doing nothing, as the fate of the man who buried his talent proves. Yet have I not done precisely this; fearing to study my Faith, lest I should have doubts; fearing to use my mind, lest I should become proud; fearing reverent sex instruction, lest I should abuse it; fearing even my God-given ordinary duties, lest they should be a distraction?


Has laziness in rising made me a nuisance to others? Have I made lying excuses to cloak my laziness? Has laziness led me into serious injustice, e.g., never doing a decent day's work?

Have I neglected housework, nominally for devotion, really because it irks me?

Have I been slovenly in my dress, work, speech, et cetera? Have I failed in duty to my husband and children, by not making the home clean, germ-proof, moderately comfortable and attractive?

Am I always late with meals and behind with my work because I am too weak to wash my hands of gossipers who waste my time?
Have I weakly agreed to falsehood or connived at and even participated in bad talk, because I was afraid to be thought narrow, bigoted, not a sport?

Have I been guilty of jealousy resulting in unfriendly rivalry, strong aversions and a jaundiced attitude towards those who excel? Has jealousy caused me to impede and act as a brake on God's work --- a very serious consideration?

Have I ever consistently tried to react in a Christian manner to insults, injuries and rash judgment? Has my reaction been dictated by human respect, by fear to be thought weak or cowardly or wanting in spirit? Have I even prided myself and boasted about my non-Christian attitude?

Am I selfish? In my plans, is my own comfort and security always my first and principal consideration?

Have I annoyed others by appreciating highly what I do for them and little what they do for me?

When giving trifles or doing trifling services, have I conveyed to others the idea that I considered them under a serious obligation to me?

Embittered by ingratitude? To be hurt by ingratitude is natural and inevitable, but to be embittered reveals selfishness.

Am I too impressionable? Have I tried to control the imagination, thoughts, ups-and-downs of feeling, moods, whims, impulses? Am I volatile and unreliable?

Have I tried to rule my life by reason?
Have I been rash, head-strong and obstinate, rushing into action without taking counselor thought and without having recourse to prayer; and then impiously blamed the Almighty because my affairs did not succeed?

Have I been a spend-thrift? Moderate thrift is a virtue, not a vice --- whatever Big Business may say!

Have I chosen to forget that public money comes out of my neighbours' pockets and that no government can produce money by magic?

Have I been content with my lot? To strive to improve one's lot tranquilly and without greed is virtuous, to allow oneself to be devoured by senseless greed and envy is fatal to virtue and to happiness.
Under cover of raising my standard of living, have I allowed my life to be materialized and my spirit deadened, so that I spend more and more time on the body, and less and less time on the soul?

Why have I now so little time and inclination for religion?

Have I considered getting on in the world to be the chief object of life; in other words, is my real outlook on life pagan, not Christian?

Have I allowed a furious barrage of advertisement to flatter and frighten me out of a reasonable contentment into a greedy hankering after goods which will do me no good and which I do not really need?

Have I allowed advertisements, Big Business propaganda and party cat-calls to distort my ideas of life and make me a senseless pawn of commercialism?

Has my indignation against the rich been based solely on envy; in other words, am I as deficient in poverty of spirit and at heart as odious and selfish a snob as they?
Have I disguised mere covetousness as enterprise or go-getting?

Have my activity and zeal been inspired by sloth, by a desire to silence my own mind and avoid facing problems?

Whilst in theory decrying the materialism and mendacity of the press, have I, nevertheless, been content in practice to get most of my ideas from it?

Have I fallen a victim to the modern craze for speed? Do I, in consequence, get exasperated whenever I am delayed, even though the delay causes me no real inconvenience and despite the fact that I have no need to hurry? If I miss a bus or train, am I inclined to make frequent use of words beginning with "b" or "d"?

Have I grumbled at the arrangements of Divine Providence and expected, even demanded, to be shown the reason for everything?

Have I been discontented because of my limitations, poverty, ill-health?
Does someone "get on your nerves"? Then ---
1. You have nerves.
2. Very probably you have the very faults which annoy you.

Is that person more popular, more talented, more esteemed than you or likely to keep you out of a position which you covet?

Have I got a suspicious mind?

Do I assume the function of a vigilance-committee over public morals and, in consequence, hardly ever mind my own business? Am I really the only person in the world with a sense of responsibility?
Our judgments reveal the nature of our own minds. As the tree, so the fruit. If habitually we suspect ulterior selfish motives in others, we are never disinterested ourselves; if we see impurity everywhere, something has gone wrong in our own lives.

Watch your judgments and you will learn to understand yourself.

Am I a smug hyper-critic? Destructive criticism is the refuge of incompetency and a perverted technique of defence. By concentrating attention on the supposed or real faults and deficiencies of his neighbours, the critic hopes to distract attention from his own short-comings, of which he is painfully aware. By indulging in criticism, he tries to compensate himself for his feeling of inferiority.

To judge requires knowledge, prudence, experience and discretion. The critic implies he has all these qualities, with the superiority they imply; and it is this self-assumed superiority which makes criticism so dear to him.

1. Jacques Debout, My Sins of Omission (Herder).
2. Debout, op. cit. (This is a brilliant book, crowned by the French Academy, which all educated people should read and possess.)
3. Sayers, cp. cit. (This is a searching and brilliant analysis of the fundamental evils of modern life.)