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  • joeywenning

The Paradox of Confession

Recently my three year old broke something of mine, and when I asked her about it, she did two things: 1 - she lied (“It wasn’t me, brother did it”) and 2 - she hid. At first she hid behind the chair. I managed to coax her out, and as she drew closer to me, she continued to hide her face behind her hands.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and my son is preparing for his first reconciliation. For those unfamiliar with this, first reconciliation, or confession, occurs when a child reaches the age of reason (the age when children are aware of right and wrong - usually around 7). During confession, the person will tell Jesus (through a priest) their sins and ask for forgiveness. As I was preparing my son for this special day and helping him reflect on the things he wanted to tell Jesus he was sorry for, I asked him if he wanted me to write them down so he could remember what to say. He was mortified at the thought of all these wrong doings being written down for the world to see. It was hard enough to say them out loud! When we finished, I asked how he felt reading his list of sins and he said “bad” as he buried his head in me. I reminded him of how good it would feel to have Jesus forgive them all and for him to be made new again.

Doing something wrong is hard, on both the person who messed up and the people that are hurt by these mess-ups. It’s our human nature to want to self protect (I.e., if I tell mom I broke it, I’m going to get in trouble and I don’t want that, so I’ll lie). It’s also human nature to hide when our shame takes over. This goes as far back as Adam and Eve who hid in shame after disobeying God.

The beauty of first reconciliation is that it prepares a person for their first Holy Communion. Confession is an essential first step because of what it does to us AND our relationships. When we mess up, we want to hide. Our shame takes over, we feel bad, and the thought of exposing our wrongdoing is horrifying. We want to self-protect, and often times this self-protection means lying, avoiding, or becoming defensive. We can’t protect ourself if someone sees our “bad”, so we move further away in our relationships, with God and with others. Reconciliation shines light on the darkness, it helps kill the shame, it gives an opportunity to ask for and receive forgiveness, and as such, it allows us to move back in communion with God and others.

If you haven’t caught on by now, this is all very pertinent in marriage. Are there times when you mess up with your spouse? Maybe you forgot to do something you said you would. Maybe you were impatient and used a harsh tone. Maybe you neglected to put time aside for the other. Perhaps it’s something bigger - hiding an addiction or an affair. Big or small, whatever it is, think about how it feels to be aware of these things, and how that may keep you further from your spouse. In order to move back into connection and communion with your husband or wife, consider doing what seems paradoxical, dropping your self-protection, exposing the wrongdoing, confessing it, talking about it, asking for forgiveness for it. Yes, at first it might feel bad. Saying our mess-ups out loud is hard. But what follows after feels really good. Maybe it won’t be immediate (your spouse is human after all), but the only path to a close and connecting relationship is showing up fully, both the good parts and the bad. This vulnerability allows for connection, forgiveness, and communion.

As we prepare for the crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord, and with the intention of being closer to Him at Easter, consider if there are parts of yourself that are being kept hidden in shame, parts that are keeping you distant from others, parts that need to be exposed, confessed, and healed. I’m praying this reconciliation leads to a beautiful communion in your marriages and relationship with God this Easter season.

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