Public Enemy #1

I dropped our boys off at school, and went to adoration this morning for the first time in 2022.  It was so good to be back with our Lord.   I spent much of my free time over break thinking and praying about what I want this new year to look like.  After greeting the Lord, the first thought that came to me was this idea of Public Enemy #1.  I wasn't entirely sure what it meant at first, but as I continued to read and pray it got clearer and clearer.  There were 2 themes that emerged that I want to share with you.

Theme #1 - SIN

When we look at our own plans and we prayerfully discern God's plans for us, it's important to account for the obstacles.

What is the #1 sin in your life that's getting in the way of living the life God has planned for you?
- What do you confess to your priest most often?
- What are you going to do about it this year?

A good friend of mine broke down the process of making change for me once, and it was really helpful.  Let me try and do the same for you.

Step 1 - Awareness

First, let us praise God that you are aware of it at all.  What a blessing it is that He has revealed this to you, and that you want to do something about it.  Don't forget to sincerely apologize to anyone hurt.  Be as specific as possible.  

Step 2 - Reflection

The next time you mess up, as soon as you become aware of it, grab a notepad, get curious, and answer these questions:

  1. What events leading up to the incident may have contributed?
  2. Was I aware of it in the moment or only in retrospect (this comes into play in step 3)?
  3. What could I do differently next time?

This is a healthy and productive way of looking at sin.  It acknowledges that you messed up, gives you a path for reconciliation, and avoids the pitfalls of shame spiraling.  

Step 3 - Avoidance

There is a critical line in the traditional act of contrition, "...and to avoid whatever leads me to sin".  This is difficult work, and it takes time.  Be patient with yourself, and don't quit.  Measure your progress in love.  If it takes you a day to realize you messed up, and you get to a place where you realize it within hours...that's progress!!  Praise God for the humility to see clearly your shortcomings so quickly.

The goal here is to use the insights from step 2, and build a plan to avoid those near occasions moving forward.  That plan might include any of the following:

  1. Study - Find a book or blog or YouTube video on the subject.  Learn about what others do to combat this sin.
  2. Pray - Buy or print a prayer that you can pray when you notice those temptations stirring up in your heart.
  3. Tell a Friend - Tell a friend you are in this fight, and ask for their prayers.  Pick a discrete emoji you can text them whenever you are struggling (think of it like the bat signal), and they'll know to stop and pray for you.  
  4. Penance - Your plan should also include a, "What to do when I fail" step.  I'd recommend a small penance like no snacking the rest of the day or no sweetener in your coffee the next morning or put a generous amount in the votive offering bin at church the next time you go.

Now that I've finished writing this up, the clarity is perfect.  This was a great exercise for me, and I'm going to spend some time with it this week and do the work myself.  

Read part 2 of the story by clicking here.

Was this helpful for you?  Leave a comment below and let me know if you have any comments or tips of your own.

Reading next

2021 - A Year in Review - The Catholic Woodworker