Confession, now known as the Rite of Reconciliation, is a Catholic sacrament in which we share our transgressions with a priest.
According to church law, the priest has the power to absolve the sins of anyone who confesses to him.
Many non-Catholics don’t understand why we should confess. Why we should bear our souls to a perfect stranger, or worse still, to a parish priest who has known us since infancy.
Yet, through my work, I’ve come to understand the incredible healing power of confession.
Anyone can hear our confession
It doesn’t require an ordained priest or any ‘special’ quality or ability to hear someone’s confession.
All that’s needed is for someone to listen with concern to a guilt-ridden heart and, by doing so, be a witness to what’s been hidden, thereby freeing the soul from its burden of guilt and shame.
The absolution happens all by itself. The blessing of grace is in the sacred moment of honesty and trust which takes place between two people.
Examining, recognising and admitting to an error of judgement, is all that is really occurring. But that process has a power to liberate which is unequalled.
The idea behind confession — a healing tool to unburden the soul — is, without question, powerful and sound.
The requirement of confession, within Catholicism, to face another human being and admit to our frailties and mistakes, keeps us level and balanced. And it promotes self-examination as an ongoing process in our spiritual life.
It offers us an opportunity to experience true humility as we acknowledge not only our strengths but also our inevitable weaknesses. And whilst I no longer practise Catholicism, I fully advocate the practice of confession.
As we share what is concerning us in our own behaviours, and attempt to reinforce our strengths, we become better, stronger, more honest people.
The spiritual versus the psychological
Yet the exploration of ourselves from a spiritual stand point, through reflection and confession, differs greatly from the analytical view of the sharing which takes place in psychology.
In the psychological model, we still bear our souls, but then repeatedly reflect on and dredge up ‘baggage’, with no true direction or outcome in sight other than to understand ourselves better. Confession, on the other hand, is all about taking responsibility, making changes and moving on.
From within this spiritual approach, we are encouraged to discover our weaknesses and reinforce them with our strengths. There is an imperative of accountability in the form of ‘reaping what we sow’, whether we believe in the Catholic afterlife, or in another such as reincarnation.
And whilst a psychological forum does have some very therapeutic benefits, it’s my experience that people can be processing the same issues for many years, yet still be in tears when they talk about them.
It’s obvious that each individual has their own timeframe for coming to terms with their deeper issues and weaknesses.
But it seems to me that something is missing in this form of therapy.
Rather than an approach where understanding ourselves is the ultimate point of self-examination, within the spiritual context we are encouraged not only to understand ourselves, but also to extend ourselves outwards and share our best qualities with others.
Confession assists us in doing this.
Where psychologists see their patients’ problems as something to be sorted through, identified and understood, confession’s entire purpose is to completely lift the burden through absolution.
Confession and absolution liberate us
They free our minds and hearts through the forgiveness they offer. With our burdens lifted, we’re free to share ourselves with the world.
Taking a spiritual approach in life focuses us more on how we can help others, rather than constantly dwelling on ourselves. And whilst there is still a balance to be struck here, a spiritual life offers us all the necessary ingredients we need to find that balance.
The more we experience forgiveness through absolution, or the sharing of our humanness with others, the more and more we see our likenesses rather than our differences.
We become brothers and sisters of the world.
We align with grace.
So if you would like to feel forgiveness, this blessing is for you:
May forgiveness and absolution be your reward,
And may you offer the same understanding to others in return.
With all my love
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