For some, an examination of conscience refers to the idiocy of rationalizing all sin because we all know that actual sin, purposely done, cannot be forgiven (which is untrue).
Some tone that idiocy down a bit, fooling themselves into thinking they are sincere by way of mathematics, so that if they cut down on sin from one confession to the next it’s all good (which is untrue). We have to have a firm purpose of amendment. Otherwise we give ourselves a licence to sin.
Some tone that idiocy down a bit, citing statisticians who say that whatever it is that is on any list for an examination of conscience is “normal” behavior, and therefore is all good (but with a fallen human nature, this is no way to come up with a standard).
Some tone that idiocy down a bit by concentrating – oooh! – really intensely on various points that they are “working on” or “struggling with” so that they work themselves up into emotional anguish about that particular thing: “I was impatient.”
Here’s the problem with all that: All of that refers to self, how one perceives oneself; it’s all about pride, one’s pride being hurt by one’s sin. The anguish is all about one’s pride, about one’s self.
And that leads to a total misunderstanding of Confession: If I can only go to Confession, then I’ll be good again, and then, after Confession, God will love me again because I’ve made myself so lovable. How can He resist?! And then I can congratulate myself again because now it’s all good.
The dirty little secret is the pride of thinking that one is in control even of God’s love. How bad is that? And stupid? Illogical! God loves us while we are yet sinners: that’s how He can forgive us in the first place, right?
When we are forgiven in Confession, the point is not to congratulate ourselves, but rather, with the grace of forgiveness coming from God, now to continue with humble thanksgiving from the one Confession to the next.
But then one’s examination of conscience has to be change, so that one puts oneself in humility before God, recognizing that He has loved us so much as to stand in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, therefore having the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. Quietly before Him, humbly thanking Him for this redemption, for this invitation to salvation, with no fear of actually seeing real sin, that is, offending God’s love for us (forgetting about us offending our pride!), it is then, with the Standard of Goodness and Kindness and Truth shining upon us that light will be cast on our sins and we will see ourselves for who we are with ourselves, with others, and before God. We will be sorry to God. That’s a huge difference. It can be the difference between heaven and hell.
But you have to know: Jesus loves us so very much.