Practicing Repentance: Part I

We live in a culture that is completely clueless about how to handle wrongdoing. Our only responses (at least, publicly) are shame and wrath, and we pour them out by the truckload. In fact, we treat wrongdoers who confess in exactly the same fashion as wrongdoers who “deny ’til they die.” In other words, it’s just as bad, if not worse, to confess to wrongdoing as it is to simply be caught in the act (or accused) because we will shame you both for the wrongdoing and the confession. Given the level of outrage we muster for those who are caught in the act, one might logically assume we would appreciate finding someone brave enough to confess that they “got it wrong” and, hopefully, desire to seek a new way of being in the world as a consequence of what they have discovered about themselves. If you assumed that, though, you’d be wrong.

We do not appreciate confessions nor do we appreciate the spoken desire to change. Our response to confessions and the beginning of an amends is generally this: You didn’t confess enough, or you didn’t use the correct combination of words, or you’re attempting to steal a victim’s thunder, or you’re being disingenuous, or you’re silencing a victim, and so on and so forth. However the confession is framed, confessions are never good enough for us. Under these circumstances, why would anyone confess? Why would anyone repent? Why would anyone make amends? There is no good reason to do so.

Side note: When it comes to repentance, we do not, in fact, need a good reason to do so other than the desire to reflect God’s call to love and to do so through living in truth and attempting to compensate those we have harmed (by whatever means are available to us). Yet, at the same time, it’s easy to see how quickly repentance can be de-incentivized with the appropriate level of negative reinforcers.

More on this tomorrow.