In a way, “confess” isn’t all that difficult to understand. At its heart, it simply means to agree with.
Put into a spiritual (Christian) setting, it most often has to do with our brokenness, our limitations, our “sin.”
If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just an will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
On the surface, this all seems fairly straightforward.
However, if you delve just a little bit deeper into the human psyche and our spirituality, a deeper and fuller implication of “confess” begins to emerge.
For those of us who make some sort of practice of “confession”, it’s easy to keep things at a “just-me-and-Jesus” level. This form of spirituality means that confession remains largely in the realm of a personal, private, individualistic spirituality: we mess up, we confess to God, and then we go on with our lives, reminded that we are forgiven and loved.
The only problem with this approach is that it leaves our pride largely intact.
More than ever, I think that pride is the thing that hamstrings us more than anything else. It’s the brokenness that keeps us from admitting that we are not, in fact, “all that,” and that we actually need some help.
When “confession” is relegated to the private sphere, the “stronghold” of pride is unchecked.
This form confession doesn’t really demand anything of us.
So what’s the alternative?
Simply put, consider inviting someone else into your confession, into your brokenness.
Make your confession a three-way affair: you, God, and another human being: someone who is able to see you at your (almost?) worst, with warts and all.
In this way, “confession” becomes a powerful weapon in the war against our pride.
The various 12 Step traditions (AA, etc.) have long since understood how important it is for human beings to deal with their pride, and maybe it’s time for the church to recover some of what it has lost over time: namely the discipline of confession.
I’m not calling for the installation of confession booths in evangelical churches, but I think it would be worth it to see our pride dismantled and shattered as we bare our souls to each other.
(Note: Confession like this does not need to be shame-based. The point is never to shame someone into worshiping. Rather, the point of confession is to embrace humility, which is ultimately just being “right-sized” in the world: human beings are seldom the worst of the worst, but they are also not without brokenness. Confession is simply a way that we remind ourselves that we are ultimately human, and therefore imperfect. Or maybe even better: that we are imperfect, and therefore ultimately human.)