"Do not be afraid of confession. When someone is in line for confession they feel all these things - even shame - but then, when they finish confessing, they leave free, great, beautiful, forgiven, clean, happy. The sacrament of reconciliation is a sacrament of healing. When I go to confession, it is for healing: healing the soul, healing the heart because of something that I did to make it unwell."-Pope Francis
It is a good habit to make a daily examen, evaluating where we have experienced God throughout the day, and where we have fallen short in serving Him. This will help us when we make our examen in preparation for sacramental Confession.
A good place to start in making your examen is with the 10 Commandments:
Have I treated people, events, or things as more important than God?
Have I sworn upon holy things, especially the name of God, in order to deceive others?
Do I go to Mass every Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation (Jan. 1; the Ascension; Aug. 15; Nov. 1; Dec. 8; Dec. 25)? Do I avoid, when possible, work that impedes worship to God, joy for the Lord’s Day, and proper relaxation of mind and body? Do I look for ways to spend time with family or in service on Sunday?
Do I show my parents due respect? Do I care for them if they are old? Am I grateful for what they have given me?
Have I harmed another through physical, verbal, or emotional means?
Have I used sex outside of the lifelong bond of marriage, with self or others?
Have I taken anything that was not mine or failed to do the work I am paid for?
Have I gossiped, told lies, or embellished stories at the expense of another?
Have I honored my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love? Have I looked at anyone else with lust?
Have I desired that others be worse off or celebrated their loss or failure because of jealousy?
1 Corinthians 13 and Matthew 5 could also be used as part of your examen.
This includes two parts. First, we must be sorry for our sins. Our sin offends God and our neighbor, harming our relationship with both. Second, we must resolve not to sin again. This does not mean that we will never commit a particular sin again, but it means that we will try our hardest to avoid it in the future.
You can also name any less serious (venial) sins that are present in your life.
If there is some sin that you particularly don't want to confess, it's probably the one that you most need to confess.
Finish with these or similar words "for these and all the sins of my life, I am truly sorry."
An example is: "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, who art all loving and deserving of all my love. Therefore I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to confess my sins, do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
Often this (or similar) prayer will be on a card in the confessional.
Even though we will always struggle with sin until we enter into the next life, we leave each Confession forgiven of our sins, a new start, fully intending to live life differently this time, yet also planning to come back to this sacrament again soon. Nothing prevents sin so well as frequent Confession!