Have you ever followed up a juicy spurt of blurting out wrongdoings (or even personal hurts) of the recent past with the phrase, “I just had to get that off my chest,” or some similar idiom?
Is there something therapeutic about confession?
The Catholic church has been doing it for centuries. People go and confess, and I think we’d be hard-pressed to call every visitor to confessionals a devoted spiritual being. So is every successful confession laced with divine intervention, or is there something simple and naturally cleansing about confession?
Do you often feel better after opening up to a trusted friend and revealing the whole ugly truth?
I’d argue that we do. That there is.
Look at movies and stories, especially relational stories. Often the struggle presents itself because of a lie, a cover-up, a falsehood that’s then compounded. A climax comes when the main character at the heart of the deception comes clean. Typically there’s a dramatic moment in which the whole truth comes out, and whether or not the situation is resolved, there’s nearly always a change in the confessing character.
There’s something healing in unburdening.
I know little about the fields of psychology and counseling, but I do have an understanding that a lot of therapy seems to come in the form of telling the full story, the whole truth.
Has christiandom today, specifically protestantism (but maybe to some degree modern catholicism too), lost the art of confession?
We have our accountability. It was a hot word a decade or two ago. Now ‘accountability’ seems to be a simple and accepted requirement to entry into the Christian faith (along with ‘quiet time’, ‘praise band’, and ‘fair-trade coffee’). But isn’t accountability kind of sort of based on guilt? Doing things or not doing things to avoid the guilt we’ll feel in having to admit weekly or whatever that we’ve failed.
I think a life lived in openness - practicing on-going confession - is an existence that at least allows the possibility of victory over sin without the fear of guilt as the driving factor. The times in my life when I’ve been the most open, generally surrounded by people who were deeply invested in the innermost aspects of my life, have been the times that I’ve felt the most free from sin. Integrity comes not from inner willpower, but from having nothing to hide and from hiding nothing.
And when we do mess up, confess. Make it a habit, and life actually may become easier to live.
That’s my opinion, and my experience. And it’s not actually all that spiritual. It’s just simple. Could it be that God made us that way?