I’m a girl who is all about forgiveness. I can honestly say that when I am presented with a soul who is full of remorse and genuine brokenness, it is not a hard thing for me to offer a true and heartfelt pardon. I’m not bragging about that. I consider it a gift from God to accept an apology and offer peace. Now before you consider me for sainthood, let me confess that confession isn’t my strong suit. It’s not the admission of being wrong – I know that I am a flawed and fragile human being – it’s the absolute inability to let people down, to disappoint, to hurt, to fail, to harm. I cannot stomach being the one who hurt someone, who broke a trust, who caused damage.
I read this awesome blog today and it spoke to this very issue in marriage – the importance of confession. I’ll share an example of why this is on my mind. You see, I made a pretty awesomely disasterous mistake with our checkbook a few months ago. Oh, yeah. It was ugly. We’re still paying for it and will for some time. I was scrambling to fix my mistake. But just like the broken coffee table (seriously, read the blog), I was doing an awesome job of hiding the mistake with the magazines, but the cereal box wasn’t supporting the weight. There were cracks in my plan. You see, expenses have a tendency to increase in a family of five. Kids grow out of their clothes, people get sick and holidays have an amazing sense of regularity. Oh, and those darn companies you owe actually want to get paid and will pursue you with a tenacity only rivaled by courtship!
Eventually, I did confess (in a torrent of tears and guilt), but I didn’t do it willingly. I was asked to move that cereal box and the coffee table came crashing down. I didn’t have a choice but to explain. See, it wasn’t the miscalculation that I felt so badly about, it was the avalanche of expenses that I caused and the disappointment and stress that I caused in and for my husband. I wanted his respect and appreciation and confidence and I’d earned questions and disappointment and frustration. I’m SO not good at failure.
Try out this little gem of truth from that post: “When we make a mistake and try to cover it up ourselves or keep it a secret, we begin to diminish the possibilities for intimacy. We can never truly experience the blessing of knowing and being known when we keep little parts of ourselves from our spouses. Secrets divide, they cause us not to trust each other, and without trust our relationships suffer.”
Trust. Yeah, pretty important in a marriage (or any relationship, really). I wasn’t hiding an affair or an addiction but I was keeping a secret that was eroding trust. I could see that on his face when I started to explain. I don’t want to erode that trust and I certainly don’t want to have secrets that separate us. Secrets are easy, confession is not.
Then, Michelle (the blogger) shared a verse, one that I’ve known nearly my whole life, but never considered it in this context.
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. – James 5:16 (Msg)
That makes sense. Confession needs to be a common practice. When we confess to each other – the big and the little stuff – we’re not allowing any secrets, any dark corners to hide the ugly stuff that separates us. When we’re in communication, without secrets, our bond is strong, our marriage is strong. Marriages with a clean slate, with strong bonds yield happy, joyful people who are free from baggage and available to be about God’s work. Confession is pretty good advice, huh?
So here are her tips for making this “your common practice”.
1. Consider Timing
A drive-by confession – as your husband is heading out the door for work, as your wife is getting the house ready for dinner guests – is selfish. Make sure you have time to talk, time for your spouse to absorb, time to ask and answer any questions.
2. Full Disclosure
Avoid confessing only the things you might get caught for and leaving out the aspects your spouse is not likely to find out about on their own. Trust comes from honesty, and deciding how much truth your spouse deserves to know is just as dishonest as the secret you’re keeping in the first place.
3. Ask for forgiveness
Depending on the nature of your confession, your spouse may want some time to process their own feelings. Ask for forgiveness humbly, not only for whatever you confess, but also for keeping secrets at all. Know that, as you ask, you hold your spouse under no obligation to extend mercy.
4. No excuses
Don’t thwart your own confession by making excuses for your actions. The worst thing you can do is say, “I’m sorry, but ________________”. Just, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I did. Will you forgive me?” If your spouse has questions, of course offer an explanation. Just make sure that your explanation is not also your attempt to be let off the hook. In order for trust to grow, you need to own your mistakes and not lay blame or guilt on your spouse to make yourself feel better.
So, maybe it’s easier for me to play the forgiver, but it’s vital that I learn to be a better, more willing confessor. How about you?