Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I saw on the news that a small town church has created a website on which people can confess their sins and shames, and receive Christian support. All confessions are anonymous and can be in a variety of topics, although the "sexual" topic is the most popular thus far. I've not read most of the posts, but I understand that there is a fair amount of admitting addiction to internet porn.

My interest was sparked when one of the "highlighted" confessions was a person who said that they were sexually abused from a young age until adolescence. They said that they had forgiven the perpetrator but still felt shame.

I have mixed feelings about web site confessions. There is little feed back - unlike when you confess to a sponsor or a minister. Also, a few of the confessions I saw were more confessions that there was something to confess without actually getting to the misdeed. And, I am troubled by someone thinking that the shame they feel from the abuse they endured as a child is equal to the person having an extra-marital affair. I also have issues with the rather passive approach to correcting behavior the posters clearly are ashamed of . . . . this notion that anonymously confessing on a web site and then expecting "God" to remove the sin and temptation.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a minister friend of mine years ago. She said that humans cannot control divine forgiveness, but that we can bestow human forgiveness upon each other. She says that in order for someone to be "eligible" for forgiveness, they must do three things:

1) admit to their behavior and the harm it created. All of the harm created. If your children grew up without the basic necessities because you were addicted to drugs, you must confess not only your addiction but also harming your children.

2) you must atone for your actions in a manner meaningful to the people you harmed. If your addiction denied your children the basics, you might atone by assisting in paying for their educations or paying for part of their groceries or donating money or time to children's shelters.

3) you must change your behavior. You must get treatment for your addiction. You must work to stay clean. You must change those behaviors. If being an active member of a church family helps - then do it. If having a personal relationship with God helps you maintain your sobriety, by all means, have it. But, don't expect that you don't have to do any of the work yourself because you show up in church on Sundays but do nothing else to help yourself.

I worry when sexual abuse victims believe they bear the burden of forgiving their abuser without the abuser doing anything to earn that forgiveness. And, I'm not sure a public but anonymous site for confession really counts as confession.

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