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Why Bother with Confession?

When I became a Catholic at the age of 20, I loved the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Now, more than 40 years later, my behavior is morally acceptable, but I am tortured interiorly by inappropriate thoughts, lacking focus and concentration. While polite and kind outwardly, I get irked or offended by others’ behavior. I am impatient, judging inwardly in my mind.

As a result, I have stopped going to confession because it no longer gives me the joy it once did. I have a hard time getting over the feeling of “You should know better at your age!”

What you write has probably been true for many holy women and men throughout the centuries. Impatience with others is a common default position for many of us. Holy people become that precisely by increasingly opening themselves to the grace that God wants to give them—even though accepting that will require them to make difficult changes.

We cannot control all the thoughts that come into our minds, but we don’t act on each of them. In some way, every sin begins as a lie that we tell ourselves: that God’s ways are too difficult, take too much time, don’t pay off—and besides, this sin represents a shortcut around God’s ways. People may name different sins in confessions, but they all boil down to one: acknowledging supposed shortcuts that have turned out—as all sins do—to be dead ends.

Perhaps your difficulty with the Sacrament of Reconciliation is more a matter of not forgiving yourself than of accepting God’s forgiveness.

St. Augustine of Hippo, no stranger to sin, once described it as “curving in on oneself.” Confession can allow God to straighten out those curves. God doesn’t cringe when we confess our sins; God rejoices that we are living more completely in God’s truth and freedom. God isn’t finished with any of us yet!


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