Confession is an important part of the Christian life. We all make mistakes. We all sin. We all hurt others. When that happens, we can either own it and talk about it, or ignore it and allow it to fester inside of us. Owning or confessing things can be difficult, but it leads to forgiveness and often reconciliation. Confession releases the heavy weight that guilt and shame inflicts on our souls, and thereby sets the stage for future growth. Also, we when confess to God, we find something amazing: He doesn’t hate us like we feared He would. He is not waiting to push us away, but is eager to embrace us and welcome us back. If you are new to the spiritual practice of confession, here are a couple of things to remember:
Don’t Confess Only to God
Being honest with God is a good place to start, but if there is someone that you have hurt with your decisions, you need to talk with them as well. Many of us grew up in Christian environments where all that mattered was privately telling God that we were sorry. That sort of confession does nothing for those we hurt. We can’t always talk to those we hurt, but when we can, we should. When our bad decisions don’t directly affect anyone else, finding someone to tell is still important. When I confess to someone else, they can encourage me, and possibly follow up to see how I am doing going forward.
Don’t Confess To Just Anybody
When you are confessing to someone so that they can encourage you and keep you accountable, who you choose is critical. Confession is an intimate process, and some people don't do well with sensitive information. It’s ok to acknowledge that some people are more trustworthy than others. When you are talking through painful decisions you have made and that you are hoping to not repeat, you don’t need to be wondering in the back of your mind if this information is going to be spread around to others. Choose those you confide in wisely.
Don’t Confess To Everybody
The "social media confession" has grown in popularity over the past few years. Many people who have messed up in a relationship take to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to tell the world how deeply sorry they are for what they have done. Many people hope that if the world sees how truly repentant they are, the person they have wronged will give them a second chance. This is desperation at best and manipulation at worst. Avoid it at all costs!
Don’t Confess By Comparing
“I’m really sorry I used the quilt your mother gave us to clean my old bowling trophies, but you bounced a check last month and didn’t tell me about it…” We’ve all heard confessions like these, many of us have attempted them as well. This sort of confession isn’t really a confession at all. It’s a justification. You hope that by comparing what you have done to something they have done, they will be more likely to forgive you. I’m not sure why we would think that bringing up someone’s past would make them more forgiving. Confession is about you, don’t make it about other people. Forgiveness isn’t about fairness. Convincing someone that they aren’t so great either isn’t a healthy way to engage confession.
Confession is difficult, but if handled well, it can be the first step to change and growth. Confessing doesn’t guarantee that people will forgive you, but it does help you begin the process of moving forward. Remember the tips below and you can get a fresh start in your personal growth.