Have you ever sat in the pews before confession, searching on your phone for the right examination of conscience? As you tap through the different websites, none of the examinations seem right for where you are in life. The lists are either too specific, too broad, or simply aimed toward teenagers or married folk. They don’t quite address the nuances of the struggles you face as a single woman.
Being a Catholic single woman is a unique experience that not many can fully understand unless they’re living it. At the same time we desire to trust in God’s will, we battle against the need for control in our lives and future. As we watch those around us receive answered prayers, we are challenged to be happy for them. We are pushed to find God in our solitude — to be alone but not lonely. And of course, we face the pressures of our Catholic culture that celebrates the vocation of marriage and family while simultaneously living in a world that defines a woman’s worth by her appearance and career.
So where are the examinations that speak to the unspoken hurdles we face (and call us out on the ones we don’t want to)? Our hope with this special examination of conscience is that it not only helps you to recognize the areas in your life that need healing, but that it also provides you with the realization that you’re not alone. As you reflect on the questions below, know that hundreds of thousands of women understand your experience. But most importantly, know that Christ himself understands the intricacies of your heartache, and that he’s waiting for you to let him lift you up again.
Pride: an excessive love of self or the desire to be better or more important than others
Do I see myself as better than my peers or even my friends and family? Do I focus on the flaws of others while ignoring their crosses? Am I unfairly critical of people I see on social media simply because I’m behind a screen? Do I judge the relationships of those around me? Do I look down upon men who pursue me that I’m not attracted to? Do I have unfair expectations of what I want in a partner? Do I have an unattainable check-list of arbitrary traits that no man can live up to? Am I concerned about the shame of being single more than pursuing God’s vocation for me?
Reflect: What is at the core of your pride? What is the real reason why you’re quick to make judgements on others? Do you feel like you have to be better than others to have worth? Where does your worth truly come from?
Greed: the desire for and love of possessions
Am I selfish with the freedom of time that I have as a single person? Do I offer my gifts, time and talents to friends, family and those in need? Do I frequently choose to do only what I want instead of making sacrifices for others? When it comes to prayer, am I demanding more from God instead of giving thanks for what I have? Do I fixate and obsess on the things I want?
Do I see a relationship as a possession to attain for social status? Do I see it as a goal to accomplish? Have I obsessed over wanting a relationship, forgetting that God has placed me where I am for a reason? Do I believe God owes me a relationship or a certain kind of life?
Reflect: Think of a time you received something you wanted. Did it completely satisfy you? Think of a time you felt totally at peace, even without all the things you wanted. What role did God play during this time of your life?
Lust: an intense desire, usually for sexual pleasure, but also for money, power or fame
Have I practiced chastity in both my actions and thoughts? Have I ever emotionally or sexually used someone? Have I kissed, touched or entertained sexual thoughts about someone in a way that reduces them to an object of my needs? Have I led someone on romantically to feel better about myself or for attention? Have I created emotional bonds with someone that are not appropriate to the relationship?
Reflect: What are you actually desiring when you fall into lust? Know that we all have a perennial call for union with one another. Wanting to be known, seen and loved by someone is normal and good. But the enemy of unitive love is use. Reflect on how your actions and thoughts could have treated someone as a means to an end, rather than a person willed by God for eternity.
Envy: sadness or desire for the possessions, happiness, talents or abilities of another
Am I envious of the blessings or successes of my friends, family or acquaintances? Do I sneer when I see engagement, wedding or baby announcements on social media? Am I saddened or angered by other’s happiness? Do I believe I deserve career, financial or relationship success over someone else? Do I discredit their achievements or hard work? Do I gossip, slander or say mean things about others I’m jealous of to feel better about myself? Do I believe God shouldn’t have blessed them, but me?
Reflect: Do you depend on the opinions of others to make up your worth? Where do you think God places your worth? Reflect on who God is calling you to be vs. what the world is calling you to be. Which loves you simply as you are, God or the world?
Gluttony: overconsumption, usually of food or drink
Do I use my time and money as a single person well? Do I spend an excess of time on social media or on streaming services? Have I developed an addiction to social media? Do I regularly choose to be distracted through entertrainment instead of building virtuous habits or building community? Have I chosen comfort and distraction over the virtue of self-discipline? Do I overindulge on food or alcohol as a means to self-soothe? Do I excessively shop or spend money beyond my means? Do I depend on things to make me feel better, rather than on God himself?
Reflect: What are you running away from? What holes are you trying to fill with distraction and comfort? When did that hole begin and why? What is it that you actually want in life? How do you need to reorient your life in order to reach that fulfilment?
Anger (or Wrath): uncontrolled feelings of hatred or rage
When I experience anger or frustration, do I let it fester within me? Have I harbored hateful or negative thoughts and feelings about someone? Do I refuse to seek out ways to overcome my anger? Do I pray to God to help me to forgive or do I hold onto my rage? Do I spread my anger in conversation with others? Have my words damaged someone’s reputation or hurt someone’s feelings? Would my angry words hurt God, who deeply loves the one I’m angry with? Have I let my anger impact my relationship with God?
Reflect: The heart of anger is a deep wound. What was it about this instance that hurt you? Why and how does it hurt you still? Why is it so hard to get past this pain? What are some concrete ways you can actively overcome this wound and be at peace again?
Sloth (or Acedia): physical laziness, also disinterest in spiritual matters or neglecting spiritual growth
Have I allowed myself to get stuck emotionally and spiritually? In my freedom as a single person, have I challenged myself to grow as a person? Am I “waiting” for a spouse to push me to grow? Am I “waiting” for my life to begin after attaining a certain career? Have I grown accustomed to being stagnant or comfortable? Do I pray daily, read spiritual books, regularly receive the sacraments or seek out therapy for past trauma? Am I ignoring any addictions, deep insecurities or serious character flaws that have been holding me back? Have I avoided working on myself or neglected the call to become the woman God is asking me to be? Have I disregarded the gifts God is calling me to use?
Reflect: Remember a time you felt passion and zeal. Where did that zeal go? What daily habits have you made that may be diminishing your conviction? What are some ways in which you can foster the virtue of discipline and start pursuing his will for you?