We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face. But we cannot make these choices with impunity. Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them. If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it!
Deep within every human heart, there is the desire to be good. That is the core assumption of this book. We all want to find and be our best selves, to go to bed each night at peace with who we are and how we acted that day. We want to be the kind of person we ourselves would want as a friend: trustworthy, dependable, fair. Yet often we fail—ourselves and others—in ways both small and significant. This universal desire has a quiet yet perceptible voice: It is our conscience, a mysterious force within that urges us toward good actions and away from the bad. Having a free will means we can choose to listen to this voice or not. As we have all experienced, we can deflect or even blunt our conscience and choose to act in ways that are not in keeping with our best selves. And we know the vague, disquieting feeling, or sometimes the overwhelming sensation, when we do this. What can lift this burden and restore our humanity is confession, a word that will be used often on these pages. In my religious tradition, Catholicism, the word “Confession” has a very specific meaning. That is not what we will explore here. Instead, we will be looking at confession with a small c. This sort of confession may be directed to a higher power, but it is first and foremost a conversation with ourselves. In other words, you don’t have to walk into a church to cleanse your soul. This book is not so much about public confession as it is about private honesty. Confession, as we will see later, is at the very foundation of all the great faiths and spiritual disciplines. All honor its power and have addressed the need for personal confession. Confession is also a pillar of mental health, for confession is about self-examination. It demands something for which there is no substitute: that we be honest with ourselves. Confession strips away the veil that we often cast over our actions, realigning our souls with what is best and truest in our natures. I use the word “align,” because when we betray ourselves (some would define this as sinning), we fall out of alignment. Until we acknowledge—confess—our souls remain confused and fragmented.
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