On Confession

“Son, do not be so fooled by the spirit of conceit that you confess your sins as though they were someone else’s. Lay bare your wound to the healer. Only through shame can you be freed from shame. Tell him, and do not be ashamed, ‘This is my wound, Father; this is my injury. It happened because of my negligence and not from any other cause. No one is to blame for this, no man, spirit, or body, or anything else. It is all through my negligence.’

We ought to not be surprised if the attacks of the demons continue to come even after confession. In any case, it is better to be battling with our thoughts than our self-esteem.

It is when we are brought low that the demons quickly pounce…our enemies hope to wound us when we are committing sin.”

-St John Climacus – “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”

This entire passage of knowledge is concerning the importance of confession in our lives. St John discloses the importance of confessing our sins in the first person, of taking responsibility for our sins. It is important that we feel the shame of our sins, because only through feeling that shame can we be freed from it, and we can never feel that shame when we approach confession distant from it, as though we are confessing someone else’s sins. I often hear people who shun the concept of “confessing to another human, my sin is between me and God.” And, while that is true, the thought of the shame of confessing sins before a person is usually enough to be a deterrant, whereas the thought of shame of committing that sin before God wasn’t. When I hear someone say “My sins are between me and God,” what I actually hear is “I don’t want to be embarrassed by confessing those sins in front of another person.” Biblically, James admonishes us to “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16). And yet, so many refuse to accept this clear teaching of Scripture, as well as the great tool that we have been given for our own growth in holiness.

St John goes on to say that we ought to not be surprised if the demons continue to come after us even after confession. And yet, consider the alternatives presented here. We can face those demons who are attacking us with the affirmation of a confessor who has reminded us that Jesus has forgiven us our shortcomings, thus battling with our thoughts; or we can face those demons alone, as a soldier separated from the remaining forces left to fight a war alone. Those demons will attack us when we are most vulnerable, when we are struggling with the guilt of repented, but unconfessed sin. They will attack us with the shame of whatever sin we have committed. They will attack us with whatever means we make available to them through our inaction. Would it not be better to endure this attack with the knowledge of our confessor fortifying our knowledge that all of us fall into sin and Jesus, the healer, forgives us our shortcomings that we have repented of? Is it better to disarm the enemy as thoroughly as possible, through the tools and Sacraments which the Church has given us through the grace of our Lord Jesus?

John concludes this by stating that it is when we are brought lowest that the demons will pounce. It is when we have fallen into despondency and despair that they will challenge us most strongly, attempting to lead us astray. It is when we have fallen into one sin that the demons will attempt to lead us into others. When we are guilt ridden and unsure of our forgiveness, it is then that they will attack us the most strongly, attempting to cause us to fall completely. This is why, so often, one sin rapidly grows into multiple. Gluttony grows to drunkenness grows to sexual immorality. Covetousness grows to avarice grows to pride. And, when we neglect confession, those sins remain within us, as a black hole, drawing us urther and further away from the ways of the Lord. Though we are forgiven, we begin to doubt that through this constant onslaught of the enemy. Voices that begin as “why not, no one is around,” grow to “one more won’t hurt, you’ve already started” and end with “well, it’s too late now, you can’t be forgiven for that.” It’s this constant cycle, once we allow the devil a foothold, he will continue to climb. And it is only through facing those sins, through confessing them before the Lord, through heartfelt tears of repentance, that we can knock loose those footholds and be freed from the power of our sin. The only sin which is unforgivable is the sin which is not repented of, and for that sin even the prayers of a saint will not be heard.

May the peace of the Lord be with you, my beloved family.

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