Most Christians practice confessing their faults to God and make it a regular part of their prayer life. But many of us neglect the important step of confessing to others when we sin against them. Here are some questions people ask regarding confessing one’s sin to another.
Q: I have a problem with impatience. I seem to offend my wife and children almost daily. I have confessed to them a million times. Do I need to keep confessing every time I offend them with my impatience?
A: Yes. Every time we wrong someone we need to confess, even though the same offense is repeated. Otherwise, the hurt and guilt will accumulate. Also, our constant confessing will hold us accountable to continue to pray for genuine and permanent change.
Q: Recently, I was in a situation in which someone else wronged me. While discussing the matter, I said something to him I shouldn’t have. My perspective on this is that his offense was a $100 event, and mine was a $5 event. He has not yet confessed to me his “big” offense, so I am reluctant to confess my “small” offense. It just seems unfair for me to have to confess first.
A: The fact that you were wronged does not justify your wrong, and the fact that some issues are major and some minor has nothing to do with whether or not they should be confessed.
Q: Years ago when our children were at home, I had a temper problem. I confessed my sin to God and my wife and have received forgiveness from both. I am grateful that God did a deep work in my life, and I have really changed. Do I still need to confess to my children that my outbursts of anger were wrong?
A: Yes. The fact that you have changed does not negate the fact that you sinned against your children. Nor does it remove their hurt. You must deal with the wrongness of your actions (by confession) and with the hurt that you caused your children. It will be important for you not to allow your children to minimize what happened. Help them get in touch with the hurt that they might have felt. As God continues to work on areas of sin in our lives, his work is not complete until we both change and properly deal with the hurt our sin has caused others.
Q: I have recently felt guilt over some rebellious years I had as a teenager, but both of my parents are deceased. What can I do?
A: Sometimes it is impossible to contact the person we offended, but we can find relief from guilt by sharing with God our sorrow and confessing to Him. At an appropriate time and place, share with a friend your sorrow and grief. Allow the friend to comfort you.
When we have sinned, the best thing to do is come forth. But instead of confessing our sins, we are usually tempted to justify ourselves, rationalize our actions or blame others. The only way to remove our guilt and bring healing to relationships is to confess.
No doubt, it is hard to do. The words, “I was wrong. Would you forgive me?” don’t naturally spill from our lips. But we must learn to say them.
Don McMinn, Ph.D. (with Kimberly Spring)
Executive Director of theiPlace.org
The 11th Commandment: More Insights into the One Anothers of Scripture