Discover Unwanted Sprouts through the Examen

plant sprouting

In the spring, we plant seeds, but we also notice all kinds of plants sprouting without any help from us. Right now, we have lettuce coming up in a patch of the backyard close to where the lettuce container plant sat last year. Some of the lettuce went to seed and fell into the ground, and we have small bright green leaves now, popping up with the regular grass. I don’t mind lettuce on the lawn, but I do mind certain weeds in the flowerbed or space where the vegetables need their growing room.

Today I ask myself: What is sprouting in my life, and is it helpful or not? The best time to weed is when the plants are young and the roots haven’t grown too deep.

Have I developed a habit lately of talking about a coworker who irritates me? This is especially easy if he irritates other colleagues as well—very easy to begin talking about that irritating person with the small club of people he’s angered lately. As I review my day at work, can I look closely at the words that have come out of my mouth? Am I willing to be honest and identify my own gossip and backbiting?

All kinds of activities sprout when we’re not paying attention:

  • Ingratitude
  • Judgment of others
  • The impulse to rush around in a half-panic
  • Worrying over matters unworthy of all that energy
  • Eating for comfort
  • Looking for distractions rather than facing work or relationships or problems

One of the simplest ways to discover the unwanted “sprouts” in your life is to do the daily Examen—a prayer St. Ignatius devised to help us review the day.

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and your memory as you review what you have said and done today.
  • Notice and give thanks for all the graces—where God was present.
  • Acknowledge and ask forgiveness for your shortcomings, whether outright sins or less-than-healthy responses to what was happening.
  • Ask for the help you will need to move forward.

Pray the Examen this week to look for unwanted habits that are popping up in your life.

About Vinita Hampton Wright 79 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

5 Comments on Discover Unwanted Sprouts through the Examen

  1. Vinita, Your commentary about the irritating person and talking to others in a less than complimentary way about that person really hit home to me. We really never know who will suffer from our “righteousness” do we? My gossiping cause trouble for 5 people, one of whom was myself. I was awestruck at the way things went. And I think that is what happens to many of us when we just blather willy-nilly about things we really know nothing about. Circumstances are not always visible, are they? Most people do not display their innermost feelings, but we trample on them either maliciously or unknowingly. Thank you for bringing this up. Sometimes we sow weeds instead of flowers.

  2. So true! We’re planting something all the time but too often are unaware. Glad this post was helpful to you. Thanks for posting!

  3. I felt snubbed by a colleague this week and got the hump.
    Others noticed that she behaved less cordially towards me, so I did feel justified and yet and yet……………..

    I too, should have kept my thoughts to myself or just shared them with the Lord.

  4. Katy, we do these things so automatically–it’s part of what we’re working at when we “put on Christ” and grow spiritually. But sometimes it feels like one step forward and several more back. The fact that you can see what you did–even in hindsight–is evidence that you are still on the Way!

  5. Thank you for this post! My company is going through a bit of a financial and leadership crisis, and everyone is feeling anxious and uncertain. There has been a lot of blaming and gossip, and I’m afraid I have participated in it. There has to be a more productive way to deal with the situation, so I will be praying for the grace and wisdom to do better and show others a positive example also.

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