Confession Is Good For The Soul

The other day I came across an old aphorism that I've heard or read a thousand times or more over the course of my life, and that many people assume comes from the Bible, which it doesn't.  Here it is: 

Confession is good for the soul. 

My curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to find out where it came from, but soon discovered that the exact origins are hard to trace.  

The best guess is that it came from an old Scottish proverb, and the originator most likely used as inspiration some of the many verses in the  Bible about confessing one's sin and finding peace as a result. 

Like this one or example that comes from Peter's sermon in Acts:  

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. - Acts 3:19

Interestingly, the word "confession" in the New Testament has its origins in the Greek word homologeo, which means to "agree or to speak the same thing" and also "not to deny."  

Further, the word for "sin" in the New Testament is hamartia, which means "to miss the mark, or to fall short."  

So confession, as it relates to God, is simply this:  We are acknowledging to ourselves and to God all of the ways that we have strained our relationship with God and others--the ways that we have fallen short of being the people God longs for us to be. 

When we confess this, we are speaking of things (agreeing with) of which God has intimate knowledge.  In other words, God knows us and knows our weaknesses and frailty.  But confession is a way for us to finally let go of our own pride and say, "God, I  agree with what you already know to be true about me."  

And then we will find ourselves open to receive the grace that was already there for us before the words even left our mouths.  

Poet and author Padraig O'Tuama wrote an amazing reflection on the moment when Jesus and Peter have an exchange after Jesus' resurrection.  

The resurrected Jesus meets the disciples on the beach of the Sea of Galilee after a miraculous catch of fish, and Peter swims to the shore to see him.  Keep in mind, Peter is feeling the weight of his denial of Jesus on the night before Jesus was crucified.  

Jesus keeps asking Peter, "Do you love me?" And Peter responds, "Of course I love you!" even though he uses a different word for "love" than Jesus when he does--most likely an attempt to mitigate his response. 

And then there's this wonderful interpretation of what happens next: 

After he asks the third time whether Peter loves him, Peter says, "Lord you know everything. "

O'Tuama offers this as an explanation to Peter's third response:  

I don't read this as a declaration of omniscience.  I think he's saying, "I know you know I've [messed] it up." and I think Jesus is saying, "Alleluia." 

O'Tuama used a different word than the one I chose, but you get the idea.  

I absolutely love this way of seeing that exchange and the grace that flows when Peter is finally honest enough to be in agreement with what Jesus already knows about him. 

This is our way forward from the weight of guilt and shame.  It's our way forward from a life filled with the denial of God's grace for us.  

It's a way forward for us where we admit what God already knows about us, and realize that God loves us beyond all ideas of love that we might have. 

And our tortured souls can rest in that knowledge and be at peace. 

May you discover the courage to be vulnerable enough to confess, and may you know just how good it is for your soul.  May you discover anew the grace of God that falls fresh upon you every moment of every day. 

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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