E.C. Hoskyns put it forthrightly: ‘When a Christian man declares that the four times repeated response in the Litany of the English Church – “Have mercy upon us miserable sinners” – has no meaning for him, he proclaims that he has as yet no understanding of the Christian religion or that he has apostasized from it.’ (Q in A Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, 308)
Confession of sin may be general. Examples are found extensively in the Bible, and also in most liturgies.
It may also be personal. The following may be found helpful as a guide to personal confession:-
- Do I love anything or anyone more than God: my family, my work, my pleaures, myself? Mt 6:33; Mk 12:30.
- Have I been complaining or resentful against God about any situation in my life? 1 Cor 10:10; Phil 2:14; 1 Thess 5:18.
- Do I love other people’s praise? Do I desire to be commended for the good that I do? Do I love to be the centre of attention? Mt 6:1-5; Jn 12:43.
- Am I impatient with others? Am I critical of others? Am I touchy or sensitive when criticised? Do I have a spirit of resentment towards anyone? Heb 12:15.
- Am I stubborn and unyielding? Am I headstrong and argumentative? Am I sure I am always right?
- Am I harsh or sarcastic? Phil 2:3; Eph 5:21.
- Am I afraid of what people might think or say? Do I shrink from my duty? Do I hide the abilities God has given me? Mt 25:24-28
- Am I jealous of anyone? Am I secretly happy when someone else fails? Am I secretly unhappy when someone else succeeds? 1 Cor 13:4-6.
- Is there anything about which I have not been completely honest? Is there some truth I am concealing? Do I try to cover up my faults? Do I try to give a better impression of myself than is really true? Am I prone to exaggeration? Mt 23:27-28; James 5:16.
- Am I easily discouraged or depressed? Have I stopped fully trusting God? Has my faith become weak? Rom 1:17; 14:23; Heb 11:6.
- Has my spiritual life become dry and formal? Have I lost my concern for those who do not know Christ? Have I become spiritually weak? Have I become lukewarm? Have I turned back from the life of a disciple? Mk 8:34; Rev 2:4-5; 3:15-16.
- Have I become conformed to the world? Have I begun to think as unbelievers think? Have I begun to love the world and its pleasures? Rom 12:2; 1 Jn 2:15-17.