Identify Your Predominant Fault: An Act of Humility

It cannot be emphasized too often that love of God — perfection, holiness, sanctity — consists in the union of our will with God’s will, and that means an active and passive union. That is to say that loving God means that we do all we know He wants us to do, and that we want all that He does to us or wills to happen to us. The only obstacle to perfection, to holiness, to sanctification, to love of God, to union with God, is the thing called sin, the essence of which is the lack of conformity of our will with God’s will — or, in other words, the opposition of our will to God’s will. Wherever we have opposition between our will and God’s will, whether it be grave opposition or mediocre or slight opposition, to that extent we are imperfect; to that extent we are failing to love God as completely
as He wants us to.

From this fact arises the necessity of knowing ourselves, of seeing the deformity between our will and God’s will. It is necessary to know this deformity in order to correct it. In other words, to be completely pleasing to God, it is necessary to know ourselves and to know wherein we depart from God’s will. Hence, the necessity of knowing our sins and our faults, of knowing our failings, frailties, and, above all, our habitual tendencies. Shadowboxing never produced a knockout. Neither can we fight an unknown or invisible enemy.

But the knowledge of our predominant faults is not the easiest knowledge in the world to come by, despite the proximity of its source. In fact, the very nearness of the object makes it more difficult to see. Others we know better than ourselves. If we had to write two essays, one describing our own faults, and the other those of our neighbor, we would probably score a higher grade for our analysis of our neighbor than of ourselves. It is much easier to know a companion’s faults than our own. After all, we feel the effects of her faults, whereas we don’t very often feel the effects of our own. We can diagnose and prescribe for her failings with assurance. Yet the most important knowledge in the world for us or any individual is the knowledge of ourselves: “Know thyself.”

Actually, we do not really know ourselves until we are ready to say at any moment, “This is my predominant fault; this is the thing that I need most to work on; this is the failing that is standing most in the way of my being fully committed to our Lord; this is the trait that others find most difficult in me; this is the characteristic that makes me hardest to live with; this is the habit that most needs correction; this is the tendency that spawns most of my difficulties.” How few there are who can say that on call!

Your Predominant Fault may be a Failure to Want what God Wants

So much for some sample indications of preferring to do our own will over God’s will in the spheres of obedience and charity. There remains now to recall the love-wounded hearts on the reverse of the Miraculous Medal, calling to mind the passive aspect of holiness, and to explore, at least superficially, manifestations of a very prevalent root fault — namely, failure to want what God does, failure to conform our will to what He sends us.We are speaking of faults that come under the heading of rebellion against God’s will, or the opposite of the virtue of abandonment to the will of God.

Are we habitually irritable when things happen that we do not want, when we are crossed and fail to get what we want? Do we show our irritability? Are we always whining and complaining about the way things are and asking why they are not different? Is this because things are not to our liking? Do we manifest a lack of meekness in our temper when things go wrong? Do others know about it from the explosion when we make a mistake?

Again, is our fault oversensitiveness? Do we regard every little oversight, every little act of thoughtlessness, as some kind of insult or offense to us and give way to sadness and weeping because we have been slighted and overlooked?

Do we give in to excessive discouragement when our work fails or when we don’t seem to improve? All of these faults are manifestations of our disposition of rebellion against God, whose Providence extends to everything that happens to us without exception.

All of the potential, predominant tendencies and faults of our character that manifest themselves externally, which we have been discussing, are the type of thing that we should mention in speaking of ourselves with our director, confessor, or superior for the purpose of determining our spiritual practice.


This article is adapted from a chapter in The Handbook of Spiritual Perfection by Philip E. Dion which is available from Sophia Institute Press

Art for this post on recognizing your predominant fault: Cover used with permission; Featured image: Photography used with permission of Annie Niemaszyk.


To read more about humility especially during times of spiritual desolation, click HERE.

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