Confession as a Spiritual Practice

Amy Tan wrote in The Kitchen God’s Wife ‘this was how you [come] to love someone… One person [lets] out their fears, the other drawing close to soothe the pain. And then more would pour out, everything that has been hidden, more and more – sorrow, shame, loneliness, all the old aches, so much released until you overflowed with the joy to be rid of it, until it was too late to stop this new joy from taking over your heart.’ In addition Mircea Eliade has noted that confession has a long history pertaining to the alleviation of suffering. To my mind both these mechanisms play an important role in the process of atonement, not just with God, but in our religious communities.

The functions of confession are numerous and well known. They involve being stripped of pride, they are expressions of love to God and they also serve as a catalyst in the process of repentance. In a study of the theological and historical practice of confession Edward Kimball argues that the Hebrew root of confession is yadah, which has connotations suggesting an acknowledgement of one’s human nature, to extol God’s characteristics or to praise and give thanks.

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