HomedotMagisExamenDiscover Unwanted Sprouts through the Examen

Discover Unwanted Sprouts through the Examen

plant sproutingIn 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.

Vinita Hampton Wright
Vinita Hampton Wrighthttp://www.loyolapress.com/authors/vinita-hampton-wright
Vinita Hampton Wright edited books for 32 years, retiring in 2021. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places and spirituality books Days of Deepening Friendship, The Art of Spiritual Writing, Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living, and, most recently, Set the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church. Vinita is a spiritual director and continues to facilitate retreats and write fiction and nonfiction. She lives with her husband, two dogs, and a cat in Springdale, Arkansas.


  1. Thank you Vinita. I am new to the Examen and even though I am 82, I have always found ‘recollecting’ difficult when I looked back over a period of weeks. I see now that by daily ‘examination’ of events it is easier to spot the weeds and the flowers. It is never too late for any of us to gain from the insights of others which help us to deepen our relationship with God and to recognise his deep love for us on a personal level and to deepen our longing to love the Lord.. The Lenten email that I receive daily is a helpful aid to becoming more aware of God’s love for the world.

  2. I am so happy to be in touch with these Ignatian prayers and insights. Being a Christian Life Community member and struggling to keep this community alive in a parish setting, these inspirations help me to keep on track. Thank you so much

  3. 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.

  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. 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.

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

  7. 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.


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