I’m thinking tonight about authentic confession. In particular, I’m thinking that authentic confession and defensiveness are mutually exclusive.
Defensiveness–excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one’s ego, or exposure of one’s shortcomings. (www.dictionary.com)
Defensiveness and authentic confession are incompatible. Yet, I’ve done it many times myself. “I’m sorry for [whatever], but you [did it first] …”.
Instead of stopping with a simple confession, I add a justification of my actions at the end. To be frank—that simply is NOT repentance. Instead, I’m trying to give a reason for my anger/bitterness/insensitivity or whatever it was that I did. But repentance is recognizing that my hurtful statements/actions were wrong. Period.
C. J. Mahaney discussed this on his blog a while back.
“When I have sinned against someone, a sincere confession is required. A confession that is sincere and pleasing to God will be specific and brief. I have learned to be suspicious of my confession if it’s general and lengthy. A sincere confession of sin should be specific (“I was arrogant and angry when I made that statement; will you please forgive me for sinning against you in this way?”) and brief (this shouldn’t take long). When I find myself adding an explanation to my confession, I’m not asking forgiveness but instead appealing for understanding.”
The thing that most often undermines sincere confession is the “yes, but” mentality. Especially when it’s “Yes I did that, but you said this about me.” But confession and repentance are solely about acknowledging OUR OWN personal sin. It stops being confession and repentance the moment we get distracted from our own personal sins and focus on what was done TO us or said ABOUT us. Those things likely need to be dealt with at some point. But don’t confuse them with authentic confession or let them interfere with repentance.
Our first instinct will always be to feel more woe over others sins against us than we do of ours against them. But it is a good gospel day when we shed defensiveness (as the gospel equips us to do) and face OUR sins head on with sincere apologies with no BUT’s attached.
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”