I confess: It’s been five months since I’ve written my last post. I know I should write with more regularity. But it’s hard. Hard for me to focus; hard to carve out time; hard to showcase my struggles; hard to bleed on every post. Still, sharing my struggles strengthens me. Why? I’m not sure. The scriptures talk about the importance of confession. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). Perhaps sharing feeds my soul–sort of akin to what they say about confession being good for the soul. Surely, there’s a difference between sharing our struggles and confessing our struggles; the latter implies the involvement of sin–in addition to weakness and vulnerability. The “Fifth Step” in the LDS Twelve Step Addiction Recovery Program uses the words “sharing” and “confessing”–almost interchangeably at times. The Fifth Step states:
Admit to yourself, to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, to proper priesthood authority, and to another person the exact nature of your wrongs (p.24).
I’m not implying that “struggling” and “sinning” are one and the same. Our lives, however, are characteristic of both. And an essential part of our spiritual and emotional growth, recovery, and healing often involves disclosure and confession. We confess–not only to God and to others–but to our own selves. Why would exposing our weakness and confessing our sins to God (and when appropriate to each other) help to heal us? The Twelve Step Program manual tells us:
Writing our inventories was like recording hundreds of separate scenes from our lives. [In this step] we had a chance to see our lives unfold, scene after scene, in a flowing narrative. As we did, we began to recognize patterns of weaknesses that had influenced our choices. We started to understand our tendencies toward negative thoughts and emotions (self-will, fear, pride, self-pity, jealousy, self-righteousness, anger, resentment, unbridled passions and desires, and so on). These thoughts and emotions were truly the exact nature of our wrongs. In completing Step 5, we demonstrated before God, ourselves, and another witness our commitment to a new life based firmly on telling and living the truth. Although Step 5 was one of the most difficult steps to take, we were encouraged by the counsel of President Spencer W. Kimball: ‘Repentance can never come until one has bared his soul and admitted his actions without excuses or rationalizations….Those persons who choose to meet the issue and transform their lives may find repentance the harder road at first, but they will find it the infinitely more desirable path as they taste of its fruits’ (“The Gospel of Repentance,” Ensign, Oct. 1982, p. 4). Once we honestly and thoroughly completed Step 5, we were left with nothing to hide. (p. 29).
Hiding our weakness, flaws, and sins takes a huge amount of energy–wasted negative energy. And whenever and whatever we hide requires isolation. Consequently, we feel like we don’t fit in and lose a sense of connectedness when we stay in our hiding place. Addiction and compulsion, especially, thrive in isolation. I’m not suggesting that we endlessly confess our every shortcoming to the world; that’s a form of narcissism. Plus, forever retelling our sins or weaknesses to the same people can become its own form of addiction. However, as the manual states, “The intent of Step 5 is exactly the opposite. We take this step not to hold to the things we confess but to begin to distinguish evil from good for ourselves and to choose good” (p. 29).
In addition to hiding our flaws, it’s also tempting to showcase our strengths in attempts to look good to others. The manual states, “One major obsession of those who struggle with addiction is a great desire to look good to others. How would your behavior change if you were only concerned about looking good to God?” (p. 31). Imagine that—focusing on what God thinks of us–and no one else! As stated in previous posts, I found a wonderful new freedom when I cast off the “hiding-my-flaws-so-you’ll-like-me” shackles! Even better, God doesn’t judge us nearly as harshly as we judge ourselves and each other.
Here’s to becoming “soul sisters,”