pastoral/spiritual care

Confession: Good for the Soul?

Confession is good for the soul.  That’s a saying I have heard my whole life.  I still don’t know if that’s true or not.  As I write, there are two national stories where very public and famous sports persons have given testimony, interviews, denials and even apologies about what each one did or did not do in the course of their lives and athletic journeys.  It has been “dramatic” to say the least to listen, wonder, question, and even doubt what one or both were saying.  All of us can make up our own minds, but the stories have convinced me once again that there are usually multiple sides of stories and the truth has to be discovered, discerned, and found. It’s not an easy search.  Just ask ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap or better yet listen to him as he tries to explain the story, crafted word by crafted word, and even after that one is left wondering if there is more to the story. 

When great athletes either stumble or fall, it becomes big news.  The stories about Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong prove that fact this week.  Fame has its price.  Sometimes it’s a steep price as people have to give account and even public confession about what they did or did not do.  I don’t even know all the feelings I have felt this week.  I have emotions like sadness, disdain, disgust, and sympathy to name a few.  My emotions have been all over the map as I listened to them both give their story and give their confession.  Confession literally means “to admit” or “to acknowledge.”  The great religions of the world, especially Judaism and Christianity (the ones I know most about), give credence to confession.  Acknowledging one’s own sins or shortcomings is therapeutic for the mind, body and soul.  There are times when guilt and sorrow overwhelm all of us—even the best people in the world are not perfect.

Some of the video and testimony by both athletes has been rather unbelievable at times.  I mean that literally.  Their confession did not seem genuine.  Other times I found myself feeling sorrow and empathy toward them.  In one particular clip of the cyclist and cancer-fighting foundation icon I heard Lance Armstrong talk about his son and his son’s willingness to “take up for his dad” and to “defend his dad.”  It was powerful to see the tear in Lance’s eye as he told his son, “You don’t have to defend me anymore.”  I was greatly moved.  It was one of the spots where Lance was broken and emotionally moved.  I could not think of a better place for him to start than by telling and confessing to his son that he no longer had to defend his dad.   Granted it’s only one part of “confession as whole,” yet I was moved as I heard a father tenderly caring for his son.  I was moved to hear Armstrong admit that he was willing to start the journey of being more truthful and upfront beginning with a relationship with his son. 

I really wish that Te’o and Armstrong did not have to deal with so much public scrutiny.  It must be difficult.  This week has taught me to watch my words and to watch my “truth telling.”    I have been changed on the inside watching and listening to the confession and admission of two very gifted and talented men.   I am sure there is something for all of us to learn as each has tried to “admit” and to “acknowledge” their shortcomings.

Dear God.  Give me strength and courage to admit my faults.  May your grace and help be always present in my struggles and when I need you.  Amen.

-- Chaplain George M. Rossi

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