The honesty of authentic confession is one of the most important components of quality recovery. We all know we need to – eventually – tell ourselves, another person and God the whole truth about ourselves, as step 5 states. We all know our secrets keep us sick. So how is it that confession at times can be selfish?
On the one hand, confessions are selfish when they are not fully honest. I know this first hand. I told myself that I was trying to ‘protect’ my spouse from the worst things that would ‘harm’ them; but more truthfully, I was protecting myself. Yes, the act of revealing what I’d really been up to would (finally) bring my spouse into contact with the pain from the harm I’d done over the years. But also, the act of disclosing everything, and seeing and feeling the real and painful effect it had, would bring me into contact with the reality of what I’d been doing. So by not disclosing, by not truly confessing, I was protecting myself from the healing I needed. One is reminded, of course, of James 5:16; “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
This dishonesty is one way that confession is selfish due to caring more about ourselves than others. On the other hand, our confessions can be honest but still selfish. It is possible to be honest but inconsiderate. When we reveal too much information, or reveal information in the wrong manner, or at the wrong time, it is often the result of not considering the effect the information will have on the other person. Too often, we can confess with the motivation that we just want to feel good. This is particularly the case with public confessions. These kinds of selfish confessions are not only inconsiderate of how others feel, but actually can distance us from the help we actually need. We are capable of ‘engineering’ the confessional encounter so as to maximize the sympathy and attention we get, whilst minimizing the accountability and loving challenge we really need. Our addictive desires are thus only reinforced, and rather than being closer to anyone, we feel all the more alone.
Confession is self-less when it is risky. We let go of control of the confessional situation, and we trust the other person (and the Other One watching over us!) to handle the truth. And maybe, just maybe, we learn to finally encounter that truth ourselves as well.