I’m currently reading several books (one of my New Year’s resolutions – read more), one of which is the classic How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I’d never read it before so was surprised that his first chapter was based on the premise that people rarely, if ever, admit their faults and instead, justify even the most evil deeds:
…ninety-nine times out of a hundred, people don’t criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be. (p. 5, Special Anniversary Edition, Gallery Books)
Adam and Eve surely had difficulty owning up to their own sin. Adam blamed Eve (“the woman you gave … me, she gave me [the] fruit” Gen 3:12). And Eve blamed the devil (“the serpent deceived me” vs. 13).
We all justify and we all blameshift.
But my experience is that we also confess.
John the Baptist’s followers did so:
…they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:6
I’m also reading Silence by Shusaku Endo (Martin Scorcese’s movie based on this book is out soon). It’s about missionaries to Japan in the 17th century. When the priests visit an island that has long been without clergy, the adults line up to confess their sins. The priest says:
Even when I keep going all day long I don’t get through them all. (p. 49, Picador Modern Classics, 2016)
Why do we sometimes blameshift? Sometimes justify? And sometimes confess?
My first response to seeing my sin (whether someone shows it to me or I observe it myself) is usually a defensive one. But eventually I get around to owning my own stuff as much as I am able.
What allows me to do that? In part, it’s the knowledge that I am fully accepted by Jesus, that nothing I can do will separate me from Him. He already knows my sin. He has already dealt with it. So, what harm can come from confession? And what GOOD! Confession relieves me. It removes a barrier in my relationship with God. It’s always accompanied by a turning back in a new way to God. So, confession draws me closer.
Here’s the verse that does the trick:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Jesus must be faithful to forgive because He’s already paid the price for the sins. Everything was taken care of at the Cross. He holds nothing against me. So I can confess, know I’m forgiven, and move on, in some small way changed.
Why, then, would I ever prefer to justify or blameshift?
Dear Lord: I know it’s best to confess, but I also know how incredibly defensive I can be. Just last night at the movies it took me a while to own up to something I did wrong. Or when I get irritated with one of the girls or someone at work, I want to point the finger outward first. Please help me to more quickly – maybe immediately – turn to confession. Thanks. Amen