My Last Confession

I was raised Catholic, but left the Church long ago. It made me feel bad about myself, because of a misfortune at birth—I was born a girl. My parents both went to parochial schools and my dad went to a Jesuit college. I managed to dodge that bullet (it was too expensive for them to send four kids). However, I still managed to absorb an unhealthy amount of guilt and shame because Mom and Dad were immersed in it during their formative years, so that’s how they raised us and how they continue to live their own lives.

I am what some might call a “New Ager.” The last officially sanctioned Catholic action in my life was my First Confession. I don’t recall how old I was, but it was during elementary school. Needless to say, I didn’t have a whole lot to confess (I remember that one of the “sins” I confessed to is that I didn’t clean my room), but the concept of the necessity to do so was still deeply ingrained even if I did rebel against it. I didn’t even realize that it was still there until very recently.

Last week I was talking to my dear friend Vickie and it was my turn to dominate the conversation (we take turns, so we each get an equal chance to vent). The essence of what I told I told her was that, even though I felt ready to take the next step upward into a much higher spiritual and energetic vibration in order to claim the good that I came here to do, I didn’t feel worthy to do so because of things I’ve done in my past that might come back to haunt me if I dared to declare myself “clean.”

She said something that really made me think. She said that, of all the people she knows, no one has as many self-doubts as I. No one she knows can—in the same breath—talk of being soul connected and aligned with Spirit, with an understanding of the Ascension process, and then throw it all directly down the crapper by expressing fear of karmic punishment for past misdeeds.

I’ve been pondering this for a few days. It made me feel good to know that so many other people (she has a wide circle of friends) do not live with this feeling of “I suck!” because then I know I’m the one who’s unusual—I’m the one with something big to change.

But how? I have been battling this my whole life—this underlying, sinister feeling of “Don’t even think of getting too big for your britches, little missy, because you are a sinner, sinner, SINNER! God will get you if you even THINK you’re guilt-free without groveling for forgiveness and paying penance, atoning for every single little thing you’ve done! God will send people from your past to take you down to your knees, to remind you that you’re dirt.”

It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps it would be a good idea to go to Confession, after all these years, to be absolved of everything once and for all, even if I no longer belong to the Church or even know where the closest Catholic Church is, for that matter. After all, this is how my early training told me to get clean so I can move forward. It might be a good psychological exercise, even if I don’t ever do it again.

But then I thought, “Naaaah.” The Church and I no longer speak the same language. No priest can offer me the kind of absolution I desire. So, instead, I had the conversation in my head, during an extremely peaceful and lucid meditation last night. It went something like this:

ME
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been about a thousand years since my last Confession.

PRIEST
Funny, you don’t look that old. Go ahead, my child.

ME
Well, I’ve pretty much broken every Commandment at least once, some more than others.

PRIEST
Every Commandment? You’ve been very busy.

ME
(consulting the list of Commandments, to double check)
Oh … wait … there are a few that I haven’t broken. I’ve never murdered anyone or coveted my neighbor’s wife or ass. But the rest, yeah.

PRIEST
Do tell.

ME
Actually, I’m not so much worried about the first one, about worshipping other gods. I’ve come to the realization that there is only One source of divinity, which goes by many names. I believe that each religion longs for connection with the same divinity behind the filter of each one’s understanding of All That Is. I understand that what “God” is, is really Love and as long as I choose to live through the filter of Love, then I have no other “God” before “Him.”

PRIEST
Okay, I can buy that.

ME
(surprised)
Really? Cool. Okay, I’ve taken God’s name in vain on a daily basis. I swear like a trucker and saying “God damn it,” is a regular part of my vocabulary. However, I know that when I say it, I’m not actually calling upon God to damn something or someone; it’s just a meaningless expression to me. I think using the name of God in vain actually means asking for the power of the One to harm another or asking for Its help to do something that I don’t need help for, sort of wasting the gift, as it were.

PRIEST
Yes, but don’t you see that as long as you use the word “God,” you are still calling upon that higher power, even if you don’t mean to do so, even if you don’t believe this is what you’re doing? That is still using His name in vain. Unless you erase, in your mind, the connection between the word “God” and some sort of higher power, you’re still activating the launch sequence, as it were.

ME
Good point. I never thought of it that way.

PRIEST
Good. Now go on.

ME
Okay. I’m going to skip past a few of these other Commandments, because I don’t feel like I need to unburden myself with them. I mean, I’ve worked on Sundays, and dishonored my parents, but I feel like I’ve made up for them both. The same goes for any cheating, stealing or lying I may have done. Actually, come to think of it, most of my guilt doesn’t directly stem from the Commandments, it comes from not being a very good parent sometimes, and some other things that I feel too ashamed to even tell you about—things I may have experimented with or things I’ve done out of desperation, taking immoral and mildly illegal shortcuts that didn’t work out the way I expected them to.

Frankly, Father, I don’t feel that I need to confess about any parenting mistakes, because at the time I was always doing the best I knew how to do and if I’d known then what I know now, I would have done things very, very differently. I feel like God forgives me, but I can’t seem to forgive myself.

PRIEST
If you truly felt that God forgives you, then you would have no need to forgive yourself. You would feel washed clean of any sin, and joyous in the knowledge that you have grown in Spirit.

ME
Yes, but I see the damage that I’ve done to my kids. I see how my wrong actions have led them down paths of self-abuse and self-destruction in various ways. I see how what I taught them, through example, has caused no end of grief in their lives. It tears me up when they bring up past incidents that caused them great pain and harm, knowing that I was responsible for teaching them to think in such a way that still attracts painful and harmful circumstances to them.

PRIEST
Weren’t you still learning, yourself? How could you have done otherwise, when you didn’t yet know otherwise? We each have our own paths, with our own crosses to bear. Our parents are the ones who set us off on those paths and supply us with those crosses. This is why we honor our Mother and our Father, because they voluntarily take on the burden of being the heavy, the one who takes all the blame for our problems until we find our true path to the God of Love. Without the obstacles our parents set up for us, there is no path to self-discovery. So if you truly do honor your Mother and your Father for their sacrifice, then you will also honor the Mother in yourself. Perhaps you really do need to confess to the Fourth Commandment.

ME
(awed)
Wow! You’re right! Gee, you’re good at this.

PRIEST
Years of practice. Go on. You were saying something about experimenting with immoral and illegal things? Let’s get to the juicy stuff.

ME
(laughing)
Okay. Well, I’ve made it no secret that I’ve done a lot of drugs. I don’t feel that this is anything to hide, because I got so much out of it. Not only the incredible highs, but also the incredible lows.

The only reason it weighs on my conscience is because of the legality of it. But I never sold drugs, and always taught my kids that they are not to be toyed with. I always taught them that there is a line between use and abuse, that some drugs are used for religious ritual for good reason. I know the difference, because I’ve abused them as well as used them.

When used correctly, by someone with maturity, they can help to thin the veil between us and Spirit, to connect to what many call God. The problems begin when abuse enters the picture, when drugs are used for escape or mindless recreation. It’s like leaving your cell phone connected to someone you’re not talking to—you rack up the minutes, but nothing is being communicated.

PRIEST
I’ve never heard it put that way before. But if you feel that this is not a sin, then why are you even bringing it up?

ME
I guess it’s because some of my bad parenting was the result of drug abuse. I wish I had done things differently.

PRIEST
Given that it’s impossible to go back and change it, let’s look at it another way. Although your children may have been harmed back then by your irresponsibility, weren’t the lessons they learned as a result more valuable than if you only lectured them to, “Just say no,” leaving them to wonder, “Why not?” Didn’t they learn to be better parents as a result of your inability to do so? So, yes, they may have been harmed at the time but they’ve come through it and are going to be much better parents to your grandchildren than you were to them.

ME
(almost crying)
Do you think so? So I’m not a bad person for scarring their lives like that?

PRIEST
(softly)
My child, if you believe that God is Love, as you said earlier, do you really think that actions that were brought about by immaturity cannot be forgiven? Especially actions that are so deeply painful to you now, actions that you regret so profoundly?

ME
(sobbing a little)
Yes, I guess so. Thanks. I guess I should have tried this Confession thing a long time ago.
(wiping tears away and pulling it back together)
I’m beginning to feel better. Thank you.

PRIEST
You’re welcome. Is there anything else? I’m sensing something big that you’re holding back.

ME
Yes, I just don’t know how to say it. I mean, I’m talking to a priest, for God’s sake. Oops, sorry. I mean, for crying out loud.

PRIEST
What’s the real difference between the two? Crying out loud and God’s sake?

ME
(laughing)
True enough. Anyway, there are things that I don’t feel like I can bring up here, really private things. Things I’m ashamed of.

PRIEST
We don’t have to go into details. Just tell me why you’re ashamed.

ME
I guess because I’ve been taught that the things I’ve done are wrong, and I did them anyway. Not only does the Church frown on them, but I do as well. Even worse, when I hear of others doing those same things, I get all self-righteous and judgmental, and declare them to be bad. I call them slutty or immoral, or stupid and wrong. I judge people for things I’ve done myself! And so then I fear having my hypocrisy thrown in my face, when someone discovers I’ve done the same wrong things I condemn others for doing!

PRIEST
This is a very deep understanding you’re having about yourself. Pay attention to what you’re saying.

ME
What do you mean?

PRIEST
You’re saying that you’re not as ashamed of your actions as you are of your judgments against others. You’re living a life of, “Do as I say, not as I do.” You fear having your judgments thrown back at you. You know the best way to break that cycle?

ME
How?

PRIEST
Stop judging others. Allow them to be who they are, to experience what they experience, just as you have done. I gather you’ve done slutty, immoral, stupid and wrong things, because those are the exact words you throw at others. Did you gain anything from those actions? Did any of them bring you closer to a connection with what you call God?

ME
(surprised)
Yes, all of them did.

PRIEST
Then, can you allow others their own paths? Can you allow them to make the same discoveries you’ve made? Would you deny them the same learning experiences that you’ve had?

ME
Wow! No, of course I wouldn’t!
(laughing with relief)
So all I need to do to be forgiven for my sins, is to forgive others for theirs? This is very cool. Such a load off!
(thinking)
Wait, I can see how this is going to be very hard to do. In order to not sit in judgment, it’s going to be impossible to participate in most conversations. Most of the time, all people talk about is what others are doing wrong. I mean, look at the news. Look how we all judge celebrities, like Britney’s shaved head, Anna Nicole’s drugged-during-pregnancy tape or Paris Hilton’s sex tape. Look how we all love to watch the mighty get taken down at the knees for doing things “we’d never do.” Look at how, as soon as someone is put on a pedestal, there is always someone digging up their dirt to humiliate them before the public.

PRIEST
They are only humiliated when they have not forgiven themselves for their transgressions, either. They are being forced to look at them, in the most “in your face” manner possible. And we all, in our gossiping conversations, are simply projecting our fears of discovery onto others, talking about them in an effort to take the focus off of what we, ourselves, are doing or have done.

ME
Interesting…

PRIEST
So, wouldn’t it seem then that the best way to avoid judgmental conversation is to forgive yourself for all of your sins so you can see others as forgivable, too?

ME
I’d love to, but I can’t seem to do it. I keep beating myself up, with all of this garbage. I lie awake at night and torture myself with it.
(desperately)
Will you forgive me, Father?

PRIEST
I am not the One to do the forgiving. However, I’ll help you to connect to the One who can.

He puts his hand on my head and closes his eyes to pray. Even though we don’t speak the same religious language anymore, I know what he’s doing. He’s connecting to his understanding of God—an external, omnipotent being with the power to forgive. I see it as him connecting to the power of Universal Love, what I call All That Is. And as he connects—as he fills himself with the Love of what he calls God—his touch stirs it up inside me as well. I feel an upsurge of joy, of happiness so intense, that I burst into tears of gratitude.

I am forgiven. I am clean. I am absolved.

This is my Last Confession. I will now go forth and sin no more. Or, if I do, I’ll know how to forgive.

Amen.

Advertisements

2 responses to “My Last Confession

  1. Hi Lisa,

    This really blew me away. It touched a chord in me that resonated with what your struggles; parenting.

    Having been raised at one time in an abusive home, it was second nature to me to hand that dysfunctional behavior down to my first born; my son, PT.

    Since I’ve learned how and why to treat children and myself differently with love and respect, I’ve become a much better parent.

    My 13 year old daughter, Cara gained the benefit of all my enlightened parenting skills, and PT got the worst of me. Although I started to make changes when he was 5, I’m still beating up on myself endlessly, pointing the finger of blame at my bad parenting as the reason for his apparent lack of self confidence, immaturity and anger streak.

    As you mentioned, “My child, if you believe that God is Love, as you said earlier, do you really think that actions that were brought about by immaturity cannot be forgiven? Especially actions that are so deeply painful to you now, actions that you regret so profoundly?”

    As I continue to delve deeper into my faith and look beyond the dogma of the church, I continue to feel closer to God and realize that it was thanks to the grace of my parents’ mistakes that I have become the person I am today.

    Every time I’ve distanced myself from the path that clarifies my relationship to God, (Love), I find myself drawn back and wanting to return by my own volition.

    Now it’s up to me to let go and forgive myself for doing the only best that I knew at the time. And it’s up to my son to choose to use my brush with bad parenting as his springboard to becoming a more sensitive, loving, caring parent himself.

    Thank you Lisa. You really helped me to understand that I just have to forgive myself and the rest will take care of itself.

    Rock on, Lisa.

    Andrea

  2. Victor Bonnici

    you are an inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s