Why People Don’t Confess Their Sins

I am very transparent.  Maybe more than is wise.  I confess my sins to others, and most often in the company of self-professed Christians.  I do this because of an experience I had in which I was challenged to publicly declare that which I was ashamed of, and I did.  I told men what I did not want them to know, and they accepted me as I was; messy and broken.

The experience was powerful, and one that Christians are called to experience among their fellow believers for the sake of healing:  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:6, ESV).  It is an experience that I hope others would also enjoy, and so it is often for that purpose that I bring my sins to the surface before another or others, that they might also feel safe admitting their shortcomings for the sake of the freedom that lies beyond.

Unfortunately, while it is sometimes the case that a man will respond to my admission of inadequacy with his own struggles, and with a sentiment that says, ‘I get that; me too,’ it seems to more often be the case that a man will recline back in his seat, literally or figuratively, and distance himself from what appears to be an uncomfortable place, shielding himself with statements like, ‘Yeah, that sounds rough,’ or ‘Well I’ll be praying for ya.’

Certainly, it may just be that the man is unable to relate in that moment.  He does not see the depth of his depravity before God, and thus cannot offer much grace when he does not believe himself to be a recipient of much grace.  It is possible that he just feels stunned, and finds it enough of a struggle to remain with me in that space, let alone express solidarity.

I can understand the fear of the light.  Dragging out skeletons out of the closet and into the front yard, especially when we are not sure how they will be received by our neighbors, is scary.  I don’t fault the man who receives my confession with little interest to reciprocate.  It’s disappointing, but not upsetting.

What is upsetting is when my confession is responded to with self-righteousness.  When my struggles are seen from the top of a long nose held up my a stiff neck, I find it challenging not to lovingly and quite pointedly help a man open his closet and uncover his wretchedness.

“Please, sir,” I want to tell him, “do not assume yourself to be my mentor and counselor when your only qualification is your high view of self.”

This is why people put facades on at church and do not confess their sins among one another; because they rightly fear the condescending judgment of others.  The gossipers lean away and say to one another, ‘I’m glad I’m not him,’ while the self-righteous lean in and abundantly offer advice that reeks of ignorance.

My request is this:

  1. Confess your sins among your fellow believers, and let those who hear respond as they will.  Do not think yourself better than those who would judge you and fear you.  Rather, seek the freedom that is promised us through confession, and pray that the Spirit help each of us to acknowledge our brokenness that we might better know and receive the grace of God.
  2. Don’t assume yourself to be wiser than you are, or believe yourself to be qualified to counsel a man because you think the Lord favors you before him.  You may very well have a good point, but it will likely be better received if it is delivered side-by-side from one sinner to another, kneeled before the Lord, rather than from a self-appointed pulpit that you believe yourself to have earned after years of good-enough behavior and platitude memorization.

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