Oct 12, 2009

Confession clears any barriers between us and God.

Confession is good for the soul, so “they” say. Often it does not feel good to confess, I’d really prefer not to admit my mistakes to anyone or listen to anyone else’s. I haven’t been a Catholic ever, so I haven’t been trained to confessing to a priest. I did learn, however, when my husband went through a prolonged depression that I could be most helpful if I would listen to him “confess” what he was feeling every morning. If I listened to his depressed thoughts for three or four minutes, twenty minutes later I could see his mood lift. Later I expanded the concept to saying out loud what I was feeling when I woke up: anxious, a little depressed, flat, out of touch with my feelings, exhausted, etc. Any time that my energy is “off” especially as I am rising in the morning, I name the feeling and wait for it to lift. It always does.

I have learned also to confess my mistakes, misplaced anger, egocentric choices to my husband, children, friends who have been targets of my choices, and even acquaintances whom I have offended. Owning my mistakes has freed me to forgive myself these lapses, to bring these tendencies to consciousness. Over time the realization that I have done something wrong has taken less and less time; when I started claiming responsibility for what I had done, it might take me months before I recognized what I had done; and now pretty close to the event or sometimes, before I do something that I know I will regret later, I can catch myself. Taking responsibility for what I do and say doesn’t guarantee any pardon or forgiveness, but it does feel good that I am no longer blaming others or circumstances for my problems. Most are just plain my fault.

In the life of the Spirit confession to God is essential. It’s not that the all-knowing God doesn’t know what I’ve done, but not hiding my “sins” from him helps me be present by no longer trying to look good or hiding what I’ve done. God wants to hear it from us even though he always offers us forgiveness if we turn towards him and change our behavior. To me this applies to all of my life: even if I feel inspired by the Spirit to do something or say something, I still take full responsibility for what I say and do. I cover any mistakes that I may make by carrying the burden of any consequences. I am sure that I can misunderstand what is being asked or do something wrong, because I am convinced that the ego is always involved even in small ways in whatever I do. When I do something I consider completely giving, there is my ego right after the fact wanting to take credit for being such a “good” person. I am not sure it is possible to do anything without the ego being at least partly engaged.

Confession is good for the soul, even if it is hard to do. I don’t believe in sin as anything more than “missing the mark” as the ancient Hebrew is now more correctly translated. Jesus said that only God is good,* only God is perfect.** I think Jesus meant we should strive for perfection, but we humans are going to mess up, miss the perfect mark often, because we are not perfect beings. I don’t think that humans being perfect is what God wants. God values our faithfulness, our intention to stay in relationship with him, our love, our ability to “hear” him and our devotion. These qualities are worth perfecting, as is forgiveness for ourselves as we mess up. If God can forgive us, why can’t we forgive ourselves?

* “There is only One who is good.” Matthew 19:17 NIV

** “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 NIV

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