Tag Archives: confession

God-vulnerability-trust

Fearless

My friend Ted was a very private person. He often confided in me, but always with the admonition not to tell anyone.

“Who would I tell?” was my usual retort, and he would recite a list of our friends.

“They wouldn’t care,” I would say, and he would mutter something under his breath. But he knew I was trustworthy, that I would not tell.

I am good at keeping secrets. My eight years of working for the FBI gave me lots of practice in keeping all kinds of secrets. Plus, if we had a family coat of arms, our motto would be Don’t tell. I came to the FBI as a fully-formed secret-keeper.

I was such an obvious secret-keeper that people sought me out to pour out their hidden lives.

True confessions was how I thought of those occasions when co-workers would reveal to me their deepest, darkest secrets. The stories usually began with “I have never told anyone this, but….”  I knew who was having affairs, who had had abortions and who had been abused as children. I knew of betrayals and dashed hopes. I knew the fears and anxieties traumatic life events could create. I listened and kept their confidences.

Somehow, I seemed to have the capacity to receive these sacred sharings. It felt like a God thing—and a mystery to me, the way people sought me out. People needed to talk, and I could listen. And after hearing someone’s confession, I released what I had heard, offering it as a prayer to God for healing.

These were one-sided conversations, though, because I kept my own secrets to myself.

Then, in my late twenties, I heard the slogan, You are only as sick as your secrets. If my secrets were the measure of my health, I was in deep trouble, because I kept lots of them. I knew government secrets from working at the FBI, other people’s secrets and my own.

When I heard that slogan, something shook loose inside me. I began to consider my secrets.

Mine were not so different from those others had confided in me. So, why was I holding onto them so tightly? What was I protecting? I looked for someone in whom I could confide and took baby steps in revealing my secrets. With each true confession, I felt lighter, freed from the burden of the secret.

God-vulnerability-trust

I came to understand that what happened in the past could not hurt me in the present, and I came to see myself as a survivor. Sharing helped me see my strengths and showed me how resilient I am.

Over the years, I have shared more and more of my past and now I am quite public.

If I had a family coat of arms, I would want my motto to be Nothing to prove, nothing to fear, nothing to hide. I want to be transparent and to accept myself as I truly am. I see that as the way to health and freedom.

God-vulnerability-trust
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Why I Love the Sacrament of Reconciliation

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.