confession and identity

I’ve been thinking about the discipline of confession lately and wondering if the power of confession is that it frees our identity from the tyranny of self by negotiating our identity in community.  Our self is always the product of forces much larger than we are aware of, but we all live with some sort of sense of self,  battered as it may be, and to the degree that we solidify and commit to our self-perceptions, we are trapped to construct them with only the internal resources we have.  So we construct self identity out of our own wishes and neuroses, trapped because our identity depends on whether or not we can confirm these things with the data we receive.

When we confess, however, we open our identity up to someone else, and enter into a kind of identity negotiation in which we accept the judgment and opinion of another as true about us.  We allow for meat-space consequences for who we are.  This doesn’t mean their opinion of us is more true or novel, in fact, a lot of times in confession we already know how our partner will respond.  It points to something larger that has already been internalized and shared in the community (of at least 2). 

So confession helps to further internalize the presence of another as we allow them to negotiate our own identity with us with compassion and care.  We become more the product of community than the thin stories our own brokenness clings to.  The unintuitive aspect is that in freeing us from our sin by bringing it into discussion, it actually breaks the power of things the world has previously written in us.  So by opening up to the world (confession) we break the power of the world that has already shaped us.

Does this description have merit?  I have been feeling it  for a while wondering if confession is how a community internalizes grace.  I feel as if I hear of lots of people who wish to be “known” and long for a community that knows them, but I meet few people willing to confess the contents of their heart, or risk sticking around when the feedback is painful.  It’s no wonder people  don’t  feel known .  Does this have legs?


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