Forgive me Father, (part 1)

for I have sinned. Unless you are Catholic you my not recognise these words, when I was growing up they were the beginning words of the act of confession, they were  muttered in a dark box through a screen to the priest on the other side, a secret, secure place offering an anonymity, a place of refuge, a place where one could lay down your burdens. I have a vivid recollection of the occasion of my first confession, it was a big celebration in the Catholic world, though on this day the confession was made in the open to the waiting priest, my biggest problem was to make up a believable enough sin so I wouldn’t be embarrassed, can you imagine it, tell me my child what sin have you committed? I had no real idea of sin, certainly I knew right from wrong, but I can remember the euphoric feeling of being free from my burden of sin, I was 7….

We are socialised from a very young age to avoid responsibility, the fear of  shame almost certainly leads to hiding wrong behavior for fear of  of rejection and abandonment.  This with cognisance becomes embedded,because of the idea that doing something wrong means there is something fundamentally wrong with the core of who we (or I) am.Often we assume that if we feel shame, it is a result of sin, and sometimes, of course, that is true. But often shame results, not from sin, but from the heavy stigma imposed by Christian culture. Issues like mental illness and sexual abuse, domestic violence, homosexuality, and often any form of sexuality are taboo topics at many churches, the heavy weights and it feels impossible to broach the subject.

The church unfortunately shoots its wounded,  can you imagine how much worse it is for people in leadership in the church, I digress from Catholicism here to all churches, imagine this scene, one young man says to his small group when asked well how was your week, well I struggled with the notion that I am homosexual, I am attracted to people of the same sex, well that conversation is going to go down like a bucket of cold sick.

Unlike AA meetings, where each person says their name and their struggle in the same breath, church meetings tend to be less graphic and also less accepting. Let’s be honest: there are some things you just don’t talk about in church. I mean to say, who stands up in church and says in front of everyone I doubted my salvation this week because I had impure thoughts about my neighbour’s, husband, or wife.  Church is a place after all for the redeemed, the saved, only good people go to church, surely?

Now I have been a part of the establishment, I am a collapsed Catholic a some time Baptist and to my embarrassment I my have even been  raving Pentecostal fundamentalist.  I have held positions of leadership and even been a lay preacher.  I used to go to a a large mental institution and take a service once a month.  I preached the message every month, that of forgiveness, especially forgiving yourself.  The director of the hospital said he believed the around half of chronically unwell inpatients were there because of guilt, and an inability to free themselves of it, such a terrible burden, that same man took his own life some years later, the story is that he left a note saying he wanted to die whilst he was still happy.  I don’t know the veracity of that story but I did hear it from someone who was at the scene.

I am hard on myself, I know my own flaws and weaknesses too well. I probably end up over compensating for these and taking responsibility for shit that really is not my fault,it is not a freeing thing to do, it just increases my burden but I still do it.  I am fortunate to have on my life some people who tell me how it is and one person in particular who doesn’t accept my negative self talk, that is important.   One of the things I have tried to impart to my children is that once we have stuffed up it is about how we deal with it,  acknowledge the mistake and try to make it right, I know that this is a simplistic approach however many situations can be dealt with on a simplistic basis, it is however a different kettle of fish when it comes to making the same mistake time after time after time. More about that later, in the mean time be soft and gentle on yourself, there are plenty of people who will be hard on you so you don’t have to add to the burden

Lots of love










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