For some reason tonight I am thinking about confession and the part that it plays (or doesn’t play) in our lives. (It is probably because we have been talking about small groups at church and some of our small group’s discussion this evening centered around intimacy and accountability in a small group.)

If the old Scottish proverb, “Confession is good for the soul” is true, does it stand to reason that lack of confession is harmful to the soul?

I know in evangelical Christian circles, the idea of confession kind of gets overlooked or lost. We say that we need to confess our sins to God and ask for His forgiveness, but we don’t emphasize the importance of confessing to one another. James 5:16 says: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

You see, by just confessing our sins to God, we can continue to hide behind whatever facade we have built up. We can hide our deepest, darkest secrets within ourselves. But when we confess our sins to one another, and we add in prayer for one another, then this scripture tells us that we can be healed. We are forgiven when we confess to God, no doubt, but healing comes as we confess to and pray for one another.

And yet we don’t confess to one another. It is too hard. It makes us too vulnerable. It makes us appear less than perfect. We are afraid of judgment. We are afraid we’ll confess to the wrong person and soon the world (or our tiny corner of it) will know of our imperfection.

But without it, healing won’t come. Not because we  aren’t saying it out loud. Not because we aren’t putting voice to it. But because as long as we are holding it in, it is ours and ours alone. Only we know and we don’t easily forgive ourselves. And unless He chooses to, we typically won’t hear the words, “You are forgiven” come from God’s mouth.

But when we confess to one another and take it to the Lord in prayer, we give it up. We no longer hold on to it. The very act of speaking out our confession and praying about it frees us in a way that cannot be explained. It frees us from the sin and it frees us from the pride that made us keep our sin secret in the first place.

What do you think? Is confession to one another part of your experience? Has it brought you freedom?

Anne Jackson’s book, Permission to Speak Freely and her website, talks about the idea of confession in the context of the church. It is a good read, an eye-opening look at how we need to confess, and with confession comes healing.