Confession: I find Demi Lovato’s song “Sorry Not Sorry” just as catchy as most, and if you aren’t in the category of most I forgive you. However, as a Christian I have no tolerance for any sort of #sorrynotsorry theology or doctrine.
Example 1: Recently, a friend of mine was trying to coordinate with a colleague who was picking something up for a work-related issue. Both are Christians, and we’ll call them Ryan and Demi. Ryan got a text asking to confirm a time to come by and pick up said item for work, and quickly replied to the text confirming the time and date (in two days in the afternoon). The next day Demi texted and called to confirm the time and date again, to which Ryan complied and confirmed again. On the day of the pick-up, Demi called Ryan to again confirm the time and date while Ryan was driving to the office. Ryan did not answer while driving (smart move, Ryan), and Demi proceeded to leave a rather indignant text about how inconvenient it was for Ryan not to answer. After arriving at the office, Ryan called back and confirmed the time and date again, and minutes later received a final text from Demi stating: disregard my previous indignation.
Did you catch it? Demi demanded, not requested, that Ryan disregard Demi’s attitude and tone of anger. Disregard means to ignore or to pay no attention to. There was no apology in there; just a demand for forgiveness without any confession of wrong doing. The text looked similar to an apology, but wasn’t. It was a relative of the popular #sorrynotsorry.
I understand that as protestants we don’t exactly keep confessionals in our churches or require our preachers (who we refuse to call priests) to accept confessions, but last time I checked, it is biblical to confess to one another for the purpose of building up, encouraging, healing, and forgiveness. Leviticus repeatedly states the need to confess sins and wrongs done to a neighbor. Those participating in the baptism of John confessed their sins. And our favorite cherry-picked verse for this topic, James 5:16, states, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (NRSV).
Ryan is a good person and was willing to not only disregard but forgive a text sent in anger, but their relationship is denied healing by a #sorrynotsorry mentality that prevented Demi from actually asking and seeking forgiveness through confession. Demanding someone ignore how you wronged them is simply not the same thing as confessing and seeking forgiveness. The spiritual ramifications of this practice terrify me.
Example 2: Kim woke up and began her morning devotional. She read through her assigned Bible passages for the day, journaled some reflective thoughts, and began her daily prayers. She thanked God for good things. She expressed her concerns about a relative with cancer and some drama at work. She was getting ready to close her prayer and said the familiar, “Forgive me of my sins. In Jesus’s name, amen.”
Did you catch it? Kim demanded, not requested, that God forgive her sins without even getting remotely close to admitting what her sins are. Odds are you’ve done this before; God knows I have. But I wonder how much we are seeking forgiveness by skipping our confession. We rationalize that we don’t need to say out loud what our sins are because God already knows. The truth, however, is that without confession we are denying healing in our relationship with God. Confession is critical, lest we run the risk of being #sorrynotsorry, or in a position where we demand forgiveness as if we are entitled to such a bold claim.
Again, I don’t expect you to find a priest and corner them in a confessional booth to unload your dirty laundry, but I do suggest for true healing and reconciliation that we find a willingness to practice confession in our walk of faith as an expression of humility. As Christians, #sorrynotsorry should not be a shortcut on our keyboard, a foundation for prayer, or an option in our relationships.