Check out this poem by David Whyte
is a stripping away of protection, the telling of a truth which might once have seemed like a humiliation, become suddenly a gateway, an entrance to new territory; even a first step home. To confess is to free oneself, not only by admitting a sin or an omission but to profess a deeper allegiance, a greater dedication to something beyond the mere threat of immediate punishment or the desolation of being shunned. To confess is to declare oneself ready for a more courageous road, one in which a previously defended identity might not only be shorn away, but be seen to be irrelevant, a distraction, a working delusion that kept us busy over the years and held us unaccountable to the real question.
Freedom from deception may be the goal but no confession is without consequences. Our fears about the result of confessing are well grounded; the old identity the secret was protecting almost never survives the revelation. We begin the new life in isolation; perhaps indeed shunned by those we have wronged or even by those unable to understand our need to tell. Confession implicitly calls for carrying on the journey newly alone, unaccompanied by the familiar company we have kept until now.
Deathbed confessions happen so frequently because in the light of our imminent demise and disappearance, preserving the old fearful identity that kept the secret is seen to be absurd, almost laughable, we are suddenly not the thing we have been defending all along. In the shadow of our disappearance we come to understand that the preservation of our name and our identity have taken enormous effort and willpower to sustain for a mere temporary and provisional sense of personhood. In leaving the stasis of secrecy we must commit to a new fidelity – and fluidity – a river flow of arrival – and not just on a temporary basis while the revelation is new, but shaped around a different life that calls for a deeper discipline.
Confession, therefore is not passive; is not the simple ability to face up to past wrongs – an active dynamic is foundational to the original meaning. In the early Christian tradition Confession meant the avowal and declaration of one’s religion, to confess was to discover what one believed to be true by speaking it out loud before witnesses – often unsympathetic – to confess, was to enter an axis of vulnerability and visibility and sometimes to place oneself at the mercy of those who did not fully understand us in our struggle.
Declaring a new dispensation by confession we see our trespasses against others in a new light, initiated by something we were hiding, not only from the world but from ourselves. Holding the secret was not only a defense against punishment but also a holding back from a next courageous step. To separate the confusion of punishment with revelation we first of all confess to ourselves, step onto solid ground in the privacy and spaciousness of our own hearts and minds and then translate it into the best speech we have to represent it in the world, and by doing so attempt to meld two previously irreconcilable worlds. To confess is to integrate the offending with the offended, inside and out.
To confess is not only to acknowledge a truth we have held from ourselves all along, breathing quietly, alone and in secret what we could not initially give a voice, but a hopeful dedication to a larger power that might make us powerless to commit the self-same sin again.
Confession is the unwanted but necessary threshold for maturation, not only for individuals but for societies and nations: we see this most tellingly in our need to face up to and into the deeply shadowed past around slavery and the exploitation or even elimination of native peoples. Confession is deeply personal no matter how collective the sin; hence the turbulent nature of our times as we each face the legacy, willingly or unwillingly that we are just beginning to fully realize we have inherited.…
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning
of Everyday Words
Revised Edition © 2021 David Whyte and Many Rivers Press
Please use this for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for seeking out professional help. The views expressed here in are from my personal experiences as well as from those I have interacted with. And while one may resonate with what is shared, it’s not a substitute for appreciating your own unique personal experience. Always do your own research on any topic to guard against being hoodwinked.