On giving up: why I hate confessing my sins

For a long time, I thought the reason I didn’t like confession was because facing the things I’ve done wrong during the day–an attitude of entitlement, say, or sheer impatience with my family, or arrogance and vanity–well, it’s painful.

It’s like the moment when my daughters come screaming to me with a skinned knee, all dark from the dirt of whatever surface they face-planted on, and I suggest cleaning the wound.

They don’t react kindly. It hurts to have someone clean things that are broken.

And yes, that’s one reason.

But more than just the pain of cleansing, I think what held me back from confession was this:

I was really focused on how awful I was to have messed up.

I had to admit I’d failed at being. My failure made me feel ashamed.

 I thought if I were doing my faith wrong. That somehow, I should be doing more to prevent that whole sin thing from happening.

Because, as Micha Boyett articulated in her book, Found (go read that puppy now) I thought Christianity was really about sin management. And if I sinned, it meant I wasn’t with the program.

Confession meant remembering that I hadn’t held up my end of the bargain. Acknowledging that I had lied to God about the whole you’re in charge promise. Confession meant I was still a slave, not a beloved daughter.

I think feeling the guilt of having sinned is good. But feeling ashamed at being a sinner? Feeling as if it’s up to me, somehow, to stop sinning?

It’s a tidy end run around grace.

I think grace is such a problematic concept for me that I nodded my head, saying, “yes, Jesus! Grace*! I’m accepted**”

Adding all sorts of asterisks and footnotes clarifying exactly what I had to do to experience that grace.

Recently, I’ve started recognizing all the asterisks I add to my faith. I am trying to stop adding them. I’m trying to comprehend that grace does not involve succeeding or earning “daughter” status.

No: Grace involves allowing God to call me beloved daughter. Grace involves giving up. Period.

The beauty of giving up is that it actually enables you to see the power of Jesus. Calling us beloved before we move one muscle towards him. Bearing our brokenness once and for all.

He does not drive a hard bargain. He does not call on us to do our part.

No, he asks to be grafted into our being so the Spirit does the work in us.


Lately, I am trying to see confession differently. Yes, I am trying to own the guilt that I do awful stuff, just like I did before.

But I am also trying to stop believing the lie that it’s up to me to mend things. Up to me to do better.

Jesus is not here to help me manage my brokenness. No: he is here to transform. To indwell.

I’m trying to stop believing that it’s up to me to do my part–unless, of course, my part is to throw up my hands and invite him to tend to my wounds, my brokenness, my ugly parts.

Shhh, he says, drawing near. I make all things new. I tell him my hurt–the awful stuff I do to other people–and he says, shhh, shhh, be still. 

Then he invites me, kindly, to let Him do all things needful.

Dancing_cover onlyWant more reflections on post-perfectionist faith? Check out my ebook, Dancing Back to Jesus.

Photo Credit: Jessica Lucia

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  • Julia

    Wow, Heather! Thank you for this post. It is incredible yo read a story that could be my own. Isn’t it amazing- it’s the One spirit and when He speaks, when I am quiet enough to listen- that’s what He tells me- you are loved! Now rest in My love! It was about two years ago that Grace itself, no longer my idea of it- but the thing itself- broke in and did that – transformed me, my mind, my heart. It’s the reason I am now married and the reason my husband and I have a beautiful baby.
    Loved reading this because I continually need this reminder- of this joy- that He will do it! He will finish, and He is more than able! It is not up to me and I don’t have to be better to let Him love me. It is His loving that makes me more fully me- the me I want to be!

    • Heather

      ” Grace itself, no longer my idea of it- but the thing itself- broke in” This is just such a lovely image–and I agree–it’s the best, most impossibly beautiful, freeing thing. I’m so happy for you, and I’m happy to anticipate that in-breaking of grace in my life, over and over!