Like Tommy, we desperately want to be freed from any guilt that imprisons us. The most important aspect of our confession is that it be genuine. When we are honest with ourselves about our wrongdoing, we will find peace in pouring out our hearts in genuine confession to God.
Dr. David Augsburger suggests that we could speak of forgiving as “for-grieving” (Augsburger, David. Helping People Forgive. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996). For-grieving refuses the shortcut resolution of forgetting the offense, and intentionally remembers, returns to the loss, relives the event, and retells the story until peace has been made at a level that permits an opening to a future of healing.
Maybe you can relate to some of these contrite expressions of Tommy.
“Lord, I do not know how to pray. Yet, I am sorry for the pain that I have caused others and myself. Please forgive me.”
“God, I am sad about the many wasted years of my life. I’ve been unable to accept your love or the love of anyone else. I ruined my relationship with my parents, my siblings, my wife, and my daughter. I grieve the loss of those broken relationships and the pain caused by my wrongdoing. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”
“Lord, help me in my unbelief which wants to limit your grace. I am shaken by the hurtful statements, abusive behaviors, and mean-spirited actions which have characterized my life. I remember, I grieve, and I ask for your forgiveness.”
When we confess our wrongdoing, we acknowledge that we have hurt God, others, and ourselves. We no longer deny our wrongdoing. We no longer withdraw and hide, fearing that we could never be accepted. We reflect and examine our offenses and the negative impact of these wrongs. We release our burdened spirit of guilt and shame. And finally, we allow the Holy Spirit to reconstruct our relationship with God and other people.