Confessing sins is an essential component of spiritual practices. When confessing, it’s essential to be honest and open – as well as taking immediate steps toward penance.
Fr Bbuye notes that many avoid confession for fear of disclosing their sins to another human, which is understandable but important to keep in mind that God already knows all of your secrets anyway.
Table of Contents
1. It is not necessary
Many individuals are confused about the necessity of confessing their sins to a priest, believing this to be a biblical requirement and without confession they will never receive forgiveness for their transgressions. While Scripture makes reference to confession, it isn’t necessary for forgiveness.
The Catholic Church instructs its faithful that confession to a priest should be compulsory if one has committed a mortal sin, because this can result in loss of sanctifying grace and ultimately lead to damnation. Confession may however not be required in cases of minor indiscretions (venial sins).
Priests can provide guidance and suggestions to avoid future sins, as well as penance options – this might include prayer, service or acts of mercy. Ideally this should happen as soon as possible when memories and feelings of guilt are still fresh.
Confession can bring many spiritual advantages. Being honest in your confession will allow God to understand more fully your condition; and specifically naming sins committed can be helpful as opposed to generalizing about what’s happened; such as saying you struggled with lust when in fact it was binging on pornography that led you down this path.
Finally, it is important to remember that Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins on the cross and therefore trust He will forgive us even if we have not confessed them directly to a priest.
2. It is not a sin
Sin is an archery term, and refers to anything done or thought that moves away from God’s plan for your life. There is no universally agreed-upon list of sinful actions; rather it refers to an overall feeling that something is off track in one’s life.
Many people fear that by not confessing their sins to a priest they have committed an irreparable offense described in 1 John 1. While technically this could be true, remembering that God knows our hearts can forgive even if we choose not to tell him how we feel is essential in helping him forgive our transgressions.
If one is serious about repentance and forgiveness, there are certain sins they must confess such as grave sins or major venial sins that have had a severe impact on their relationship with Jesus and may lead to severe consequences such as losing sanctifying grace or entering hell.
Sins have the ability to erode charity in our hearts and turn people away from God – which is the root cause of all evil. Therefore, they should be confessed in order to gain forgiveness and restoration of grace.
However, confessing venial or minor mortal sins directly to God is not sinful. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are various ordinary ways for believers to receive forgiveness for these types of transgressions, including attending Mass and receiving Communion worthily; performing acts of charity; abstaining from sexual activity and praying frequently. Furthermore, those unable to make individual confession can achieve forgiveness for venial sins through an act of perfect contrition (sorrow for one’s sin arising out of love for God) by vowing that sooner than later they will seek recourse through recourse to the Sacrament of Confession sacrament sacrament sacrament of forgiveness from sacraments (ii).
3. It is not a punishment
The Catholic Church holds that sins must be confessed directly to God through a priest in order to receive absolution, drawing its rationale from John 20:23 in which Jesus gave his disciples authority to forgive sins (Jn 20:23). Proponents of this viewpoint also assert that these apostles passed this authority down through time as bishops and priests of the Catholic Church today.
Although some may misconstrue confession as punishment, confessing one’s sins to a priest should be seen as an act of penitence and peacemaking rather than punishment. Furthermore, confessing can help heal spiritual wounds caused by one’s transgressions.
Many people may feel nervous or even intimidated to go to confession, due to feelings of discomfort in confessing their sins to another human. However, an effective priest will make your experience as pleasant and help you overcome your anxieties by reminding you how important honesty is and that no judgement will be passed against you; indeed heaven celebrates more when one sinner repents than 99 who never committed sin themselves!
A priest can help you understand what sin is and why it’s wrong, then provide appropriate penance based on its seriousness – such as prayer, self-denial or works of mercy. His ultimate goal is to help you live more fully within Christ’s love and become a better disciple – often this involves helping correct situations of sin such as living arrangements that go against his Gospel message.
4. It is not a sign of weakness
Many Catholics mistakenly think confession to a priest is a sign of weakness; in reality, however, it should be seen as an act of great faith as it shows your willingness to acknowledge your mistakes and ask forgiveness from God for any misdeeds committed. Additionally, confession allows your Christian brothers and sisters to hold you accountable so they can assist with protecting you against temptation in the future.
Additionally, it is crucial to remember that Jesus only granted this apostolic authority to twelve individuals – not to the entire church nor even His mother! Therefore it would be unbiblical and contrary to church tradition for anyone to claim that confession is unnecessary.
There are other means by which one may receive forgiveness for venial sins, including attending Mass and receiving Communion deservingly, doing acts of charity, fasting, and giving almsgiving; but for mortal sins perfect contrition must be demonstrated – sorrow for ones sins coming from love itself.
At times of personal crisis or stress, it’s necessary to carefully examine our consciences using the Ten Commandments and Christ’s words about loving others as ourselves as a guideline. Particular attention must be paid to sins of omission that cause serious harm both to ourselves and to others. For this reason, it is recommended that at least once annually you go before an authorized priest for confession – either privately behind a screen or directly in their presence – even though this can feel daunting, because the priest understands our human frailties better than you might expect!
5. It is not a sign of pride
The New Testament does not teach that believers must confess their sins to priests. Instead, it instructs believers that all believers are priests – meaning each individual can communicate directly with God and forgive sins as long as they recognize them and admit them themselves to someone. Prayer and reflection can help overcome any difficulties related to acknowledging and confessing one’s own transgressions.
Pride is often described in Scripture as the root of all evil and must be tackled head on in order to stay free of its clutches. If you want to overcome prideful tendencies, confession may help reveal their nature as well as encourage greater humility.
Confession can also help hold you accountable and guide your resistance against temptation, which is particularly important if the sin involved others. Furthermore, having friends who support and understand you regardless of what struggles come your way can also be immensely helpful in finding freedom from sin.
1 John 1:9 uses the Greek term exomologeo, which can also be translated as homologeo (confessing praise or thanksgiving to God), to translate “confess your sins.” This term usually refers to public confessions made before others (e.g. Mark 1:5, Acts 19:18, James 5:16 and the Didache as examples of such public confessions.) Therefore it could mean that believers should publicly confess their sins at gatherings together as in early Church (Abingdon New Testament Commentary 1, 2, 3 John 63); an alternative interpretation offered by Robert Yarbough states that early church practiced confession publicly before meals as part of daily worship services.