Clerical Articles

What to do if you are ashamed to confess a sin?

  • July 23, 2017

You will find the answer to this question in any handbook about confession, but I think it won’t be the healing one

I’m sure that’s why you are looking for an answer, another answer than the one, I have no doubt about it, you already know but which is of no use to you in your actual condition. Because of this I won’t rebuke you as usual: `This shame is from the devil, you must overcome it and confess your sin!`

Antonius, Bishop of Suroj remembered tenderly an incident from his adolescence which changed his life. I confess that the same happening had the same effect upon my life. Once after the holy service was ended, the young man approached to be anointed by the priest who gave him the impression that he was drunk. However from a false politeness he tried to kiss his hand and the priest withdrew it abashed, excusing himself for his condition.

After the people have scattered the young man moved by the gesture of the priest went to him to apologize. The priest was so upset that he was almost crying. And told to the young man that he was upset he was that way but he couldn’t bear it anymore, because his wife and child had just died in an accident.

Then the future bishop of Suroj had the following simple but fundamental revelation. He understood that one thing is to read in the Bible about Job’s patience and give him as an example to the others when you see them upset and another one is to experience on your own such a big trouble.

The authentic Christian life begins with the understanding of this simple thing. We should understand that we cannot always fulfill the good counsels of the Holy Fathers and even of the Savior.

We don’t always have the needed power, courage and merely will. But despite these, we shouldn’t forget that even then, either we are tempted and even possessed by devils or by our natural tendencies, we are still Christians. Some smitten Christians, but still Christians,

We should understand that the life of the Christian is not consisting only of victories and accomplishments but maybe more from defeats, but some defeats endured with courage.

For us as Christians a defeat endured with courage is greater than a victory gained meanly, meaning proudly. A victory like this can very easily throw you out of the battle field. Meaning in our case that if someone confesses his sins with too much ease may wonder why is it happening this to him? Isn’t it because they don’t seem that serious to him? Isn’t it because he has lost the spirit of true repentance?

Yes, your sin may be an abortion, incest, homosexuality, necrophilia or crime. But you should know that there are people who confess such sins almost with serenity and somewhere else in a remote monastery there is a monk who cries bitterly because he had eaten an apple from a tree without any blessing. In the Patericon we have the case of a monk who was tormented by the fact that he was working in the kitchen of the monastery and ate from the butter pot.

So in my opinion the shame we feel when we have to confess a sin might depend not so much on the gravity of that sin but on the intensity of our repentance. For not allowing us to reach such a courageous repentance, so well-pleasing to God, the devil fights against us and intensifies our anxiety, increasing not only our shame but also our despair.

But what means to declare yourself defeated? Is it the fact that you can’t confess a certain sin to the priest? No. Not yet. This is just a blow, a blow naturally implied by any fight. But that’s not a defeat, it is still a scuffle. Defeat is when we begin to run away not only from the priest but even from Christ, when you come to the conclusion that it is not just the priest who cannot understand you, but even Christ cannot do it, even Christ cannot forgive you.

I said that this shame may rather appear because of the intensity of our repentance than because of the gravity of our sin. And it would be sad to miss the chance to be crowned in accordance with our struggle. But the crown is placed higher than we are and imagine that we don’t have anything to help us reach it: not a chair, nor a stone or a snag. Everything we have at our disposal is our sin and we have to step on it as if we were stepping on a staircase to reach the crown.

Thus if you cannot confess that to the priest where you usually make your confession, go and tell it to an unknown priest, go in a foreign town, in a foreign country where nobody knows you and tell it to the first priest who comes in your way, only confess it once and for all.

If you lost your trust in priests, cause you might fall into this temptation as well, say it to a man of trust. If don’t have such a man, say it straightly to God, say it to Him without cease. In fact I’m sure that the memory of that sin haunts you, but say it openly, hopefully, not running away from God.

Take the case of Peter and Judas. Judas felt an intense repentance, ran away and threw the money taken for blood. Judas in contrast to Peter confessed that Christ’s blood was pure, meaning practically that he defied the decision of the Jews, that he defied the whole Temple who condemned Christ to death.

Peter didn’t have the power to do this, not even in front of a simple woman who told him that she had seen him with the apostles. Peter denied Christ by oath, while Judas confessed without fear that he was not guilty and not only before a simple woman, who couldn’t do anything to him, but in front of the law makers of the Jews, who could send him to death.

But despite this fact his great repentance was of no avail to him because Judas although he repented ran from God, didn’t dare to confess before Him.

Judas who had the courage to confess in front of the people didn’t have the courage to confess in front of God and Peter, although he was frightened and ashamed of people, when time came confessed to God.

What was Peter’s confession? Did he say: `God, I sinned betraying You, please forgive me?` No. Peter confessed in a different way, which surprises us. Peter said:

`God, You know all, You know that I love You.` You should repeat the same, even if you don’t believe it either. Say it even if it is a lie, but wish it were a truth. It might even be a truth, a truth only a few from us can reach but we all long for it. Cry and repeat this lie to God, tell Him straightly: `God, You know all, You know that I love You!`

God knows our sin. He knows it before we had been born. But He didn’t prevent our birth. Doesn’t this prove God’s trust in us, doesn’t this show the great hope He put in us? Why disappoint such a wonderful man like God?

The same bishop, in a preach On Nativity which I know it wasn’t translated in Romanian, proposes a discussion, not so much about the faith of the man in God, this being so often discussed, but about God’s faith in the man.

The bishop retells a story of not so much literary value but with a great spiritual depth.

The author imagines the council of the Holy Tgrinity at the creation of man. od, the Father would have said : Let’s make man in our image after our likeness.`

`But this man is going to fall` said the Holy Spirit. `And You, Son will have to die for him.`

`Shall we make him or not?` asked the Father.

`Let’s make him`, said the Son.

Here is the trust God put in the man. To this God we confess, of Him we are ashamed, this is the One we love.

If you can’t confess yet your sin to the priest, do not despair, tell it to God. And add to that sin all the reasons why you can’t confess it. Tell to God all the things the way they are, simply. Do not separate yourself from God.

You can tell Him that He is not right with you, even that He is guilty for your sin, you can slander the whole earth before Him, all the priests and bishops, but confess everything before Him and do not rest until you get an answer from Him. Maybe suddenly you realize that what you tell Him is a lie, or maybe you don’t. But know that He will understand you anything you might tell Him. And calm yourself.

You can tell everything to Him so that you won’t burst in front of people. But refrain from slandering the priests or any other man before people until you find your peace.

You can accuse all people before God, cause He will understand you. He knows everything. And don’t ever forget that no matter how desperate or revolted you would be that everything is a temporary temptation you must defeat.

There will come the time when you confess it to the priest, before God but with a witness. It won’t seem that hard to you, he is a man himself, troubled by thoughts just as you are, because as saint apostle Paul says `all men cry and moan with unheard sobs waiting for the adoption.`

Think that it is only an insignificant sin, a small one. That life might throw you from now on in greater sins so that what troubles you now might seem some mere trifles in comparison with that. And if you can’t confess this one, what will you do with those?

„Take courage, I have conquered the world” – Hieromonk Savatie Baştovoi