(© all rights reserved) Chaplain Joe Molina CDR, UMSC / Chaplain to the Corps of Cadets
During The dark days of the Cold War an archeological expedition headed by Soviet scientists was given a mummy by the Egyptian government. They carefully prepared it for shipping and sent it back to the Soviet Union for further study. Among other things, the scientists wanted to determine the mummy’s age. However, the scientists were rudely pushed aside by the notorious Soviet secret police (KGB) who insisted, “Leave it to us; we’ll find out.”
After a few days, the secret police made the astonishing announcement that the mummy’s age was 3,402 years.
“That is amazing comrades,” cried the Soviet scientists. “How did you ever determine it?” “That was easy,” reported the secret police. “The mummy confessed.”
I know…it’s a lousy joke but there is a moral to the story: A little confession is good for the soul! Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not promoting some sectarian form of “confession.”
I am not espousing a ritualistic or formal religious expression of the practice of confession. However, if the formal, religious expression appeals to the reader…then practice it, and do so faithfully, by all means!
What I am promoting here is the practice of “dumping.” That is, we all need a place to go defuse. We all need a “confessional” and a “confessor.” All of us (chaplains included) need a place to go and express our deepest longings, our most profound desires, our morbid guilt and sometimes our deepest fears. This soul-purging or mental enema (be careful with that one) can do much to lighten our burden and identify new opportunities to either begin again or find new energies for the journey.
Nevertheless, this should not be a one-way monologue. We must not just “speak into the wind.” At the receiving end of this confessional experience, there must be a receptive ear. There should be a listener who has genuine concern for us. A diary or a journal may be a good place to record feelings, experiences and thoughts. However, monologue must turn into dialogue.
This person (your confessor) should be a person handpicked by you. It should be a person that has proven their loyalty and has your confidence. He or she should be a person that has demonstrated maturity and wisdom in their speech and actions. Your trusted friend should not be a “yes” man/woman. In other words, allow that person to “agree to disagree” if necessary. Please, make sure that your “listener” has your permission to offer his/her advice. This should not be a judgmental person. Allow your trusted friend to freely offer an opinion and sometimes clearly point out to you if what you are thinking or doing is right or wrong. However, don’t necessarily expect advice (nor demand it). Sometimes it is just good to have someone “listen” to us attentively. Being able to just speak and be heard can be comforting. One other thing, make sure, be certain, that your thoughts will be guarded and kept in the strictest of confidence.
There is a general consensus among clergy and mental health professionals that “confessing” is good (for the soul). Note that there can be some downside for not exercising this opportunity. These may be some of the negative effects when we “bottle up” thoughts that need to be expressed:
- Feelings of being overwhelmed by the conditions of life.
- Making bad decisions and further complicating existing problems.
- Possible depression by holding back and not seeking guidance.
- In extreme cases entertaining unhealthy thoughts that seek to truly diminish, if not eliminate, our potential for happiness and success in life.
My experience has been that confession with a trusted confidant can be an additional way to experience the grace of God. God can work through people. And… oh by the way, be prepared to lend a listening ear for someone who may need to unload (confess) on you.