Secret Faults (Part 2)
No one will readily deny the importance of self-knowledge and accountability but why do so few examine themselves every day?
In the sermon Secret Faults Newman points out that we tend to notice others’ faults but not our own, and are upset when ours are identified by others.
It is not uncommon for someone to get upset when his fault is pointed out. For instance, when someone frequently reacts with anger, “(T)the very charge of being angry, if brought against him, will anger him more.”
God knows our hearts. If we are sincere we, too, will admit evil desires. God knows not only our acts but the desires of our hearts. “The stirrings of pride, vanity, covetousness, impurity, discontent, resentment, these succeed each other through the day in momentary emotions, and are known to Him.” Although we may not know them we must concern ourselves to recognize them.
Newman explains that the incidents of life and temptations test our virtues and disclose to us our faults. King David, for example, was obedient and faithful to God, yet succumbed at the moment of a strong temptation. From this and other examples of the Old Testament, Newman deduces the following warning: “Never to think we have due knowledge of ourselves till we have been exposed to various kinds of temptations, and tried on every side.”
The reality of who we are and the temptations we face should keep us humble. “We are sinners, but we do not know how great. He alone knows who died for our sins.” For this reason the saints know themselves to be sinners. St. Josemaría Escrivá called himself with all sincerity “a sinner, madly in love with Jesus Christ.”
Newman continues by pointing out that even when we have been tested we often do not know ourselves well. “Faithful Abraham through want of faith denied his wife. Moses, the meekest of men, was excluded from the land of promise for a passionate word.” Still, we often do not recognize our hidden faults, and virtues defiled by numerous imperfections. St. Theresa of Avila warned her spiritual daughters to begin by identifying pride, which she called “the enemy within.”
We must practice daily examination of conscience, and ask God to reveal to us our secret faults.