Somebody once said “Confess your sins to the Lord and you will be forgiven, confess them to man and you will be laughed at.”
Okay, I know this is not entirely true. But isn’t it how we feel a lot of the time! That if I confess my sin, if I share my feelings, my heart, or my struggles I will be shamed or embarrassed. I think this stems from our growing up years. I know this is true for myself.
I was introduced to God at a young age. I grew up in the Christian Church and with parents that believed in God. However, who I believed God to be was based more off what I saw in others who said they knew Christ. My view of Him was based off what others said about Him, how others responded to Him, and how I personally felt about Him.
The foundation I began to build was one based off disengaged knowledge rather than an intimate knowing of the Father.
At the time, God was a harsh father who pointed out my failures, crossed His arms, and shook His head in disappointment at me. He was sitting on His comfy chair as far away as possible from me and my smelly crap. He applauded when I succeed, but only for a second. There wasn’t time to celebrate, there’s work to do.
For the first 25 years of my life I saw vulnerability as a weakness. Opening up and willingly sharing my faults was absurd!!! I mean yeah, I knew I was a sinner, duh everyone is, but to share exactly what I struggle with and doing so with brutal honesty, that’s for the weak minded who don’t have enough self-discipline to take care of their “issues.” Live in isolation. No one ever told me to do it. It came naturally.
There is this video of me when I was in Kindergarten. My older sister was filming I think. I was getting ready to go to some girl’s birthday party. I remember thinking she was cute. The whole video was my family joking about me and this girl. You know, “no kissy kissy Michael!!” Or “Michael and Katie, sittin’ in a tree!” Blah, blah, blah. You can tell I was embarrassed. I hated that feeling. I remember from that day on, as a six year old, I’m never telling anyone close to me my feelings towards the opposite sex, or for that matter my vulnerable feelings in general. I’ll just get laughed at!
Still today I battle those deeply held beliefs that if I open up, if I am honest I will be rejected, laughed at, or shamed.
Why do we see vulnerability as a weakness?
Playing basketball in front of 24 thousand fans and millions on tv while in college encouraged two things in me to fester: arrogance and a lack of authenticity. I learned to be comfortable in the lime-light, but not necessarily in the light.
The better things are going for us, the more successful we are, the harder it is to share our faults. We assume others are better off not knowing. That couldn’t be further from the truth though.
1 John 1:5-10 MSG
5 This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him. 6-7 If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin. 8-10 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim that only shows off our ignorance of God.
You know, I always thought this meant we were to have this general overarching belief that we are sinners! Which I guess is true obviously, but I never grasped the meat of this passage. I believe living in the light is making being vulnerable a way of life. It is confession on a daily, hourly, and for me a lot of times, minute basis.
Don’t you just cringe sometimes though when you hear the word confess? Does anything good ever follow, “I have something to confess to you.” “Oh yes dear, what is it?” (said no wife ever)
I made hiding sin such a pattern in my life, confessing to another became not just hard, but a fear. I remember struggling with thinking I had to “pretty up” my sin before I brought it before God or another. If I’m honest, I still try to do that at times. I’m learning to place more emphasis on the exposure of things and less on fixing them. If my focus is to fix, then disappointment will be an ever present feeling. Shame will dominant my life. But shame loses its power when exposed to the light. So if exposure is the goal, I just have to bring my broken self.
A lot of you either know or heard parts of my story, heard about my bondage to sin and living a lifestyle filled with shame, isolation, sexual immorality, and deception. I had lived in profession of Christ on the outside, but secretly I was a hypocrite.
I was addicted to sex and porn and the affirmation of the opposite sex to meet my every need. In 2012 I confessed to Bryana (my wife) and others everything I could think of that was hidden. I thought it would ruin my marriage, destroy friendships, and humiliate me to the point of death. I literally felt at the time that taking my life might be the better option than to expose the worst of me!
My back was against the wall, it was like confessing was my only option. I was desperate. Not only was I desperate, I was tired of the pretentious, fake life I was living. I didn’t even realize until the weight was gone how heavy it was.
It was at this moment, humiliated and on my knees, that the level of desperation outweighed the need to keep up on appearances!
I guess you could call it a gift. I was gifted the feeling and the potential of losing everything. I lost the respect of others. I lost my job. I lost the future I wanted. I lost friends. And I was on the brink of losing my wife and kids.
Why confess though? What’s so powerful about confession? I know for myself the power was in the stripping away of pride and the development of intimate relationships. Confessing sin, confessing a lifestyle, a thought pattern, emotions, faults, quirks, it forces us into a place of humility, a place to be molded and shaped by God. Secondly, ironically enough, it strengthens the bond of friendships.
“Nothing so much brings one person in contact with another as the confession of sin. When a friend tells us of his success, he stands at a distance from our heart; when he tells of his guilt with tears, he is very near.” –Fulton Sheen
What is the overarching reason we struggle to confess to others? Is it because I am thinking “what will others think of me?” Is it about losing control? Is it because I believe “my sin struggle” is the worst? Or could it be a struggle to trust another individual, which most likely comes from a place of being wounded and hurt?
How can I better involve others in this process of my struggles?
I struggle to confess for multiple reasons, but the main one has to be that I am ultimately fearful of another person having an unfavorable view of me!! I believe I can control their opinion of me, which is absolutely bogus. Because no matter how hard I try, freaking people still judge, criticize and disagree with me. I have no clue why people would ever disagree with me.
I’ve learned though, that contrary to my default, I will not be abandoned if I am honest. I believe one of the enemy’s greatest ploys is to convince us to live in isolation. Proverbs 18:1 says “whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Bonhoeffer tells it like this, “whoever is alone in his sin is utterly alone.”
It takes courage to be open. I believe confession is the beginning of healing. It is the ultimate expression of humility and helplessness.
We are all seeking something out of relationships whether we know it or not. We desire love. We yearn for affirmation. We’d die for worth. We need significance. But the irony is that when we wear masks, only our masks receive the love, affirmation, worth and significance we want so badly from God and others. I am a work in progress for sure, but I am learning to let my true self be seen. It’s weird, because as I do this I feel the most satisfied. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable at times. I’d rather tell Bryana or my close buddies that I ain’t strugglin’ at all, that I haven’t been better. The reality is quite the opposite more often than not though.
Again, here’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer on confession and community:
“In confession there takes place a breakthrough to community. Sin wants to be alone with people. It takes them away from the community. The more lonely people become, the more destructive the power of sin over them. The more deeply they become entangled in it, the more unholy is their loneliness. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of what is left unsaid sin poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and closed isolation of the heart. Sin must be brought into the light. What is unspoken is said openly and confessed. All that is secret and hidden comes to light. It is a hard struggle until the sin crosses one’s lips in confession. But God breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. Since the confession of sin is made in the presence of another Christian, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders, giving up all evil, giving the sinner’s heart to God and finding the forgiveness of all one’s sin in the community of Jesus Christ and other Christians. Sin that has been spoken and confessed has lost all of its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear apart the community.”
If I could encourage us in one area, it would be to make a daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and allow others in on who we really are.
I still crave affirmation and attention from others, but I am learning to first be filled by Christ. To wait patiently for the worth and value He places on my life.
Psalm 51:17 says “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
I want to be known, not as the guy who has it altogether, but as the one who is altogether broken before God.