When we think of gifts, we often imagine tangible items wrapped up in shiny paper and topped with a bow. However, life’s most profound gifts often come in less conspicuous forms, and one such unseen treasure is the gift of confession. Often, we are hesitant to embrace confession as a gift because of its religious, psychological, and social connotations. Still, its essence is deeply tied to our transformation and connection with God and others.
The Bible is not silent on the importance of confession. Through Jesus, God offers complete pardon for every sin we commit (2 Corinthians 5:21, Titus 3:5), provided we confess our recognized sin to him. Of course, God already knows our sins, but it is important that we also see and agree with God about these destructive behaviors, thoughts, and ideas.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5–10 CSB)
In this case, walking in the light as he is in the light is not about living perfectly but about living where things can be clearly seen—living honestly and authentically with ourselves, others, and God.
Here are five ways the practice of confession supports our walk with God and our spiritual growth.
1. Cultivating Self-Awareness and Growth
At its essence, confession is an act of humility, of being honest about our actions and their consequences. True confession is the fruit of self-awareness and the desire for personal growth. In our Christian faith, confession is a spiritual practice where we seek to recognize and acknowledge our sins and shortcomings before God, and sometimes also before another person or group of people who are trustworthy and will receive us with love and truth rather than shame or permissiveness.
In this, confession leads to increased self-understanding and the cultivating of wisdom. It is the first step toward repentance, which is the changing of our behavior, ultimately leading us to deeper fellowship with our holy Father, who wants us to thrive in his love.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord grants favor and honor; he does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity. (Psalm 84:11 CSB)
Recognizing our shortcomings, mistakes, and sins is the first step toward true spiritual freedom in Christ. By acknowledging these aspects of ourselves, we not only gain the ability to change them, but we give God the freedom to transform our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can learn from our past experiences rather than being haunted by them. Moreover, confession helps us foster empathy and compassion toward others as we become more conscious of our own imperfections.
2. The Power of Surrender
Our sins have consequences, some of which can be very difficult to live with. I say this out of my own experience. But I think you’d agree with me that holding on to unconfessed sin makes the load of our regrets even heavier.
One of the profound aspects of confession is the release it provides as we surrender our most hidden self to our loving God. When we confess, we acknowledge our flaws, wrongdoings, and failures, and in doing so, we relieve ourselves of their burdensome weight.
This doesn’t mean that we will not have to live with the consequences of our sins—or even at times be called to reconcile with those we’ve hurt—but if our innermost secrets, anxieties, and regrets are held tightly within, they can create a profound inner turmoil. When we hide behind a curtain of shame, part of ourselves is not visible to others, and thus we struggle to truly connect with those most important to us.
Guilt can also keep us from opening ourselves to God fully, as we may fear his judgment and punishment. Unconfessed sin impedes our ability to please our Lord. And a lack of confession can open our mind to the lies of Satan, whose strategy is to tempt us into believing God doesn’t want to hear from us anymore—that he won’t forgive us again. But through the surrendered posture of confession, we afford ourselves the opportunity to breathe, reflect, and ultimately experience the abundant grace Jesus offers. Our faith in God’s grace protects us from the fiery arrows of the enemy.
For most of my life, I thought I was a pretty good person and that my sins were just mistakes and errors made in response to my circumstances and my lack of resources. I took no responsibility for my own choices and rather blamed others for my actions. Now, our circumstances can and often do influence us toward sin. We live in a broken world, with broken people who do awful things. But it is vital that we remember this truth:
No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 CSB)
It wasn’t until the year I turned forty—the year I read the whole Bible for the first time—that I realized how wrong my way of thinking was and how much it weighed down my heart with regret and sorrow. Until I saw my sin clearly and understood the gift of grace afforded to me by the sacrificial love of Jesus, I was afraid of confessing anything. Little did I know what a treasure I was failing to enjoy!
3. The Treasure of Forgiveness
We often tend to be our own harshest critics and struggle to forgive ourselves for our wrongdoing. On the other hand, we can also deceive ourselves into believing that our behavior is not as bad as it really is. And, although we hate to admit it, we can also be hypocritical, holding a lower standard for ourselves than we do for others. Yet, through confession, we open the door for Jesus to correct these very human tendencies.
Healthy confession—based on God’s love and Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection—leads us to forgiveness and self-compassion, acknowledging our humanity and inherent fallibility. The treasure of forgiveness offered to us by our loving God is that it holds the power to heal, restore, and liberate for eternity. And once we truly allow ourselves to experience the forgiveness of our heavenly Father, we cannot help but wish to forgive others as we have been forgiven. We are also more likely to apologize to others for our actions and open ourselves to their forgiveness if they are willing.
Seeking forgiveness is not a sign of weakness but rather an act of wisdom. It’s a courageous choice to seek freedom from the chains that bind us and open ourselves to the perfect love of our Creator. Other people may not forgive us, at least not as perfectly as God, but forgiveness holds the transformative power to mend our broken relationships with others, reconcile differences, and foster understanding. It is a declaration of our faith in God’s grace and the work of Christ on the cross, and it points others to Jesus. It is a deep source of hope that shines light on our shared humanity, reminding us that while we are all sinners falling short of the glory of God—broken and fallible—redemption and reconciliation are possible (John 3:15–18).
For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7–8 CSB)
4. Building Authentic Connections
Confession also holds the power to deepen our relationships with others. By sharing our vulnerabilities, we show our genuine selves, paving the way for authentic and meaningful connections. Confession fosters a sense of trust and understanding. This is a key foundation for strong relationships. Moreover, when we confess to those who respond with empathy and non-judgment, it can cultivate a sense of emotional safety and mutual respect.
Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Colossians 3:12–14 CSB)
5. The Gift of Transformation
The gift of confession is one that comes without ribbons or wrapping, yet its value is immeasurable. It’s a journey toward self-discovery, forgiveness, repentance, growth, and authentic connection with God and others. It invites us to remove our masks, face our truths, recognize our persisting value in the face of our shortcomings, and ultimately allow God to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. As the psalmist declares:
How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! (Psalm 32:1 CSB)
Indeed, in this act of brave honesty, we reveal not only who we are but also who we wish to become. This unseen treasure is truly one of life’s greatest gifts, one we all have within our grasp. It’s an offering to ourselves and others, a testament to our shared humanity.
In embracing the gift of confession, we open ourselves up to healing, growth, and deeper understanding of the complexities of the human spirit. We open ourselves up to the true joy Jesus came to give us.