6 Principles for Healthy Confession

  1. Be sensitive.
    The one who is confessing should not overburden the listener. People suffering are self-absorbed; their pain keeps their attention focused on themselves, their problems, and their needs. They have difficulty thinking about anything else. But pain is not a license to inflict hurt on anyone else—especially someone who wants to help. Someone who agrees to help lead in recovery should have lives of their own, and the person who is confessing should not feel entitled to dump their troubles on them every time they feel the need.
  2. Be discreet.
    Use care in deciding what is appropriate to talk about and what is not. Avoid explicit sexual details, endless recital of someone’s faults, and repetition of the same frustrating events. These are unnecessary for the listener to hear. Instead, use self-censoring to be considerate of the feelings of the person listening.
  3. Be honest.
    Don’t confess someone else’s sin. When a person reveals another person’s secrets, this tactic allows them to play the innocent victim that doesn’t need to change. If they insist on being the victim, their confession will always be shallow. At best, their spiritual progress will be slow.
  4. Set reasonable expectations.
    Don’t expect the listener to do more than they can. If the listener is not a trained counselor, he or she
    cannot be expected to be a therapist. And even if they are a therapist, that does not make them a miracle worker. Have realistic expectations—this means that a listener is unable to fix the problems or situations. Besides, listeners who take on the responsibility to solve another person’s problems will become emotionally drained.
  5. Don’t stifle emotions.
    Many people have difficulty expressing their feelings. So, they work hard to keep their feelings away. No one should withhold emotions just because they don’t feel like expressing them. Feelings are part of someone’s story. A person should never let the desire to appear strong keep them from being honest.
  6. Maintain healthy independence.
    Some individuals are born rescuers. But if they rescue out of a need to be in control or feel important, they are likely to become too important to the person they are trying to help. If someone gets too attached, create distance so that the relationship can remain positive and mutually rewarding.

Want to learn more about healthy confession? Find a counselor, resources, and get connected to a Life Recovery Group by calling 800-NEW-LIFE.

Adapted from the book Seven Keys to Spiritual Renewal, by Stephen Arterburn and Dr. David Stoop.