Is there anything worse than the dawning realization that you must confess? Be it a small omission of truth that must be righted, or hurtful news that could harm a relationship forever, no one looks forward to facing their own behavior in the eyes of another.
But our actions call out to us like the tell-tale heart – saying confess! It’s the only thing to do. But how? Where to start? What to say! Just as sins run the gamut from white lies to eternal damnation – so do confessions. There are things that can be undone and forgiven. Things that can’t be undone but probably forgiven. And things that can’t be undone and may never be forgiven.
The hard part is, when you are making your confession, you don’t know which category you are in until the results play out. No matter if you lost your neighbor’s cat or screwed your best friends lover, the steps to a good confession remain the same.
Here are the tips for coming clean and letting the truth set you free.
First, be clear about what you did and whom you did it to. Guilt is a strange phenomenon. It’s foreboding and can be relentless and has to be dealt with in some way. But admitting guilt isn’t the same as confessing. You must understand what you did and who was hurt by it. We love to tell ourselves that our actions only hurt ourselves or that since no one has found out yet, it’s not really hurting anyone.
Nearly all admissions of behaviors are rooted in dishonesty. Lying to a friend about your true feelings doesn’t spare their feelings, it hurts the friendship. Lying to a spouse by carrying on an affair hurts you, them and the third party who is tangled up in your infidelity. And none of this matters if you are not willing to stop engaging in the behavior. This is a good time to look at why you lied, cheated or stole. What is going on with you that you felt you had to do this? If you don’t know why you did it, chances are, you’ll just do it again. If you can’t answer that question, it might be time to talk to a professional who can help you sort it out.
Next, appoach your confession with respect and humility. Once you are clear, it’s time to take action – quick. If you are putting together the pieces, chances are, someone else is, too. And there is nothing to ruin the chances of forgiveness than to have someone else find out about your sin, first. Say what you are doing clearly. “I am confessing to you that I…” Don’t be vague and don’t make the mistake of pleading to the lesser charge.
Now your partner goes through the very hard work to accept your admission and forgive you only to find out that they have been made to be a fool when it turns out you are still hiding the truth. Part of the humility of confession is to truly come clean. And that means being respectful and to the point. And no blaming. You have your reasons for what you did, but confession is not the time to get your friend or partner to own their part. Don’t ruin a confession with a round of the blame game. You did what you did, so own it.
Take a step back. Give the process of confessing breathing room before you decide what the outcome is. You have to respect that this is a lot of information to lay on someone else. You’ve been living with it since it happened, but they are confronting it for the first time. The person you wronged does not owe you a schedule for their forgiveness. It’s not fair to ask someone to accept your behavior while you are constantly asking them if you are forgiven and showering them with gifts and attention.
You have to give it space and let them know you respect what they need to go through. You have to let them talk it out with supportive friends and know that they have a right to come to their own conclusion. In the end, it’s not about what you want. It’s about where the process leads the relationship. Some relationships can withstand a lot and even flourish through hard times, but some just don’t. Sometimes things can’t be forgiven. It’s the truth about relationships, they lead to where they lead and sometimes, even when both parties are willing, they end anyway.
So, if there is a chance that the worst possible outcome could come to pass, why confess at all? We confess because we are human. We confess because no matter how far from ideal all of us have fallen, we have hope that there is the chance for a good outcome. Because by confessing, it can bring us closer together – and it gives us a chance to live a more honorable life – and be ultimately more happy at the end of the day. And as the old saying goes, the truth will set us free!
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