‘You’re A Good Person’ And Other Confession Excuses
Published: November 13, 2008
Here I am, sitting outside the confessional, and I feel like I am 8 years old again. For some reason, my heart is flopping around wildly and my hands are sweaty.
And every so often, I hear a voice in my head yelling: “Run home! You don’t need this! You’re a good person!”
Ha! I know where that voice comes from, and I’m not going to listen. He’s the same one who assures me that wasting money on frivolous things is not a sin but instead is a way to reward myself for hard work.
Confession is a place where God’s mercy flows freely, and we receive a big showering of grace. So it’s little wonder that Satan would prefer that we stay home.
There are times when I succumb to the dark voice. There are times when getting myself out the door for confession ranks right up there with doing stomach exercises, as far as excuses go.
Invariably, on the day I plan to go to confession, there suddenly is a long list of urgent projects awaiting my attention. Furniture to dust, letters to write—and don’t forget the hamster’s cage that needs cleaning.
As the appointed time for confession draws nearer, a sneaky voice in my head grows more insistent. “You can go another time. You’re basically a good person anyway.”
On the days when I ignore this voice and do go to confession, I always emerge with a tremendous sense of gratitude for this wondrous sacrament.
Going to confession regularly—and by this I mean about every three or four weeks—helps me better understand who that person in the mirror really is.
In fact, she is not such a good person, really. She can be incredibly vain, envious, angry, worried and selfish.
If I only go once or twice a year, I tend to forget many of my sins. If I yelled at someone in May, what are the chances I will remember that in December?
Some people apparently believe confession is only for mortal sins. They figure if they are only committing the smaller transgressions, there is no reason to go. Problem is, overlooking a pile of little sins can pave the way to commit the big ones.
There have been times, for example, when I have told what I call “white lies,” but I neglected to confess these sins. But then I noticed that my habit of telling little untruths began giving way to a penchant for spinning bigger, more elaborate tales.
Sometimes in confession, I am tempted to withhold some sins that I figure the priest wouldn’t want to hear. In fact, they are the sins that are the most troubling and embarrassing.
And, of course, the devil assures me that it’s fine to be dishonest. After all, if he can’t keep me away from the sacrament, he will try his hardest to make me fail at it.
Telling the priest just how vain, mean-spirited, angry and envious I am is extremely tough, but I remind myself that the one I am talking to in the confessional is really Christ himself.
And it is futile holding anything back from the One who knows my heart so well.
At times, that clever guy called Satan will use this very fact to lure us away from confession. He will cite the Protestant claim that we needn’t confess our sins to a priest.
Instead, he whispers, we can just tell them directly to God.
Surely Satan would love for us to forget the scriptural basis for confession. It occurred when Jesus said to the apostles: “Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Mt 18:18).
Jesus thought it was important for us to tell our sins aloud to another human being. Those human beings, the priests, patiently wait in the confessional each week for folks to show up.
When the lines are long, you can bet that Satan is vexed. And when the priest sits there, all alone, hour after hour, you know who is dancing for joy.
This week, maybe this very day: Why not vex the devil?
Lorraine Murray’s latest book is “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist,” a spiritual autobiography. Artwork featured in the print edition is by Jef Murray (www.jefmurray.com). The Murrays are parishioners at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. Readers may write them at email@example.com.