I love the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and I have loved it since my early twenties.
At the time, I was a stenographer for the FBI, working alongside ten other stenographers in a “steno pool,” our desks forming two straight lines on either side of a large, open room. We faced our supervisor’s office, a small room with a big window.
Our supervisor was a tiny woman, who was overly conscientious and a bit anxious. She seemed old to me at the time, but was probably in her early forties.
Stenography jobs were assigned one of two grade levels, and each level had different daily outcome expectations for number of pages typed. I entered the FBI at the lower level.
I don’t know how the page production range had been established, but it was way below my typing capabilities; I was a fast and accurate typist. At the entry grade level, I could produce my required typed pages before lunch, and I often did just that. Once I met my quota, I stopped typing.
In my obstinate mind, I was doing what they paid me to do, and if they wanted me to produce more, they could move me to the next grade level. But, the rules about moving to the next level were about time in job and not proficiency.
So this stalemate set in—me doing what was required and not a whit more, and my supervisor confounded by my unwillingness to continue typing. I offered to leave or to read a book or do some craft so I would not be a distraction to the other stenos, but none of those was a viable option to my supervisor.
Challenging her authority became a game for me, and it was clear that her training and experience had not prepared her for someone like me.
Until one day when she became so frustrated with me that she fled the steno pool in tears. I had never caused an adult to cry and I felt bad. All of a sudden, I saw myself from her perspective. I saw how petty and heartless I had been.
The following Saturday, I went to church and confessed my bad behavior. The priest listened, and for my penance, he told me to do something kind for my supervisor. Couldn’t I just say one Our Father and three Hail Mary’s as in the confessions of my youth? I asked. Yes, he said, I could do that and I was to do something kind for this woman I had been tormenting.
I knew my supervisor liked plants, so I bought her a planter. On Monday morning, I marched into her office with the planter and a card expressing my sorrow at having been so difficult. I apologized for my bad behavior, admitted my authority issues and told her I would try to do better. She cried again as she hugged me and thanked me.
That was the beginning of my dealing with my authority issues and the beginning of my love of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.