How To Identify & Crush Your Predominant Fault

May 16, 2024

There is one sin that every one of us needs to focus upon and crush with no mercy.

What is it? Your predominant fault. “My what?”

You heard me…or rather you heard one of the greatest spiritual theologians of the 20th century, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

What in the world is a predominant fault?

Well, even in a state of grace, each of us possesses a particular fault that is stronger than the rest. It could be lack of patience, fierce anger, deadly lust, admiration of skinny jeans…the list goes on.

Regardless of its identity, the predominant fault is a stone cold killer of the spiritual life.

Here’s how it works.

Grace in the soul tends to start by perfecting what is good in us. For example, if you’re already patient, grace can even help you charitably endure a 3 hour long elementary school Christmas concert.

From there, says Fr. Lagrange, grace radiates out to what is, shall we say, “less good,” in us. In other words, it starts to work more on our natural weaknesses and faults.

Our predominant fault, however, acts as a major obstacle to that pattern of purification. It attacks the work of grace in a similar manner to that of weeds seeking to take over a manicured lawn.

We’ve all seen it happen…even to ourselves.

You spent the entire summer cultivating the best-looking grass on the block and in mere days one dandelion seed from your neighbor’s “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” yard destroyed it all.

Suddenly you’re swimming in a sea of yellow.

All that time spent in the sweltering company of a Garden Weasel is rendered nil and dandelion “bouquets” begin appearing on your dining room table, courtesy of your children.

Of course, it’s not all your neighbor’s fault. The Devil is the real anti-gardener.

As Christ says in the Parable of the Sower, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away” (Mt 13:24-25).

And then the Evil One continues to come round like a disgruntled Chem-lawn guy, fertilizing the weeds so they can strangle and destroy the good plants.

And the weed that grows fastest is our predominant fault.

Bernardino_Pinturicchio_-_Saint_Jerome_in_the_Wilderness_-_Walters

But while it’s incredibly deadly to the life of grace, few of us have actually identified our personal predominant fault (though we can easily identify it in others. Hmmm…)

Ironically, it’s often easier for earnest beginners in the spiritual life to name their main fault than those more advanced in the ways of God.

Those a little further along in the spiritual journey are often quite adept at covering their faults with the facade of virtue. (“I’m not impatient! I just admire punctuality!” or “I’m not angry, just righteously indignant!”)

That's why it's crucial to identify and set up a plan to crush our predominant fault.

It’s important because if we don’t fight it, we’re in big spiritual trouble. We’ll have no fertile interior life, which means no real spiritual growth.

So let’s turn our attention to how spiritual master Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange says we can identify, and then crush, this killer of souls.

6 Ways To Identify Your Predominant Fault

 

1. Ask God to show you. (Trust me…He’ll answer.) Ask for grace and then listen. And realize it might not even be God talking directly to you. Just by examining the things that pre-occupy your thoughts, especially during prayer, you can get a good bead on your major weaknesses.

Think about what issues or thoughts distract you the most when you’re trying to focus and recollect yourself. These are often strong indicators of what you need to work on because they’re items or issues that have a strong hold on your attention.

2. Ask “What makes me happy or sad?” (Add extra penance for any joyful response involving parachute pants or Zubaz.) Obviously, not everything that causes these emotions is a fault, but they can be clues.

3. Ask “What motivates my actions?” (Focus particularly on my sinful motives.) Motive is huge. It’s the guard at the gate of the soul. If you can constantly monitor your motive (and be honest about it) you’ll be far better equipped to fight the spiritual battle.

Identifying your true motive will help you uncover your predominant fault very quickly.

4. What do others think is my Predominant Fault? If you’re married, you probably don’t need to ask. Your spouse has already told you (if your teenager hasn’t). If you’re unmarried or your spouse thinks you’re always totally awesome, ask a trusted friend or a spiritual director.

Regardless, others are more objective than we are when it comes to our weaknesses.

5. Ask yourself “What tempts me most?” “What is my weak area?” The Devil certainly knows, and is probably squeezing that pressure point pretty often. Pinpoint it. One way to do this is to think about what you’re always bringing up in confession.

6. Finally, Fr. Lagrange says that “in moments of true fervor the inspirations of the Holy Ghost ask us for the sacrifice of this particular fault.” If God is asking you do something like this, there’s a reason. Pray for grace to do what the Lord is asking of you.

So there you go – how to discover your Predominant Fault. But as GI Joe said back in the 80s cartoon, “knowing is only half the battle.”

The remaining question is “How do we kill it?”

And that's exactly what I'll be discussing in next week's blog post.  

God bless!

Matthew

P.S. If you haven’t yet signed up for my FREE video series Catholic Mysticism & the Beautiful Life of Grace, what are you waiting for? It’s FREE! Join thousands of Catholics from all over the world who are already transforming their spiritual life. CHECK IT OUT HERE!


 

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