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A Parent's Confession
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

A Gift of Our Faith
An Everyday Part of Our Lives
For Teens: Write It Down
For Kids: Wash It Out




Have you ever had one of those moments where as soon as something happened you wished you could change it? I had one of those moments the other night. I’m not sure what caused it. Maybe I was tired; maybe the kids weren’t listening. The reason seems inconsequential. All that matters is that I lost my temper.

As soon as I did, I knew I messed up. And in case I didn’t know it, my three-year-old’s tears made it crystal clear. Riley ran off to her bedroom and slammed the door. I was left standing there with no excuses, and more than a healthy dose of guilt.

I immediately knew what I had to do next. I headed to her room in search of forgiveness. I sat down on the bed next to her.

“I’m sorry, honey,” I said sheepishly. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you. There was no reason for it.” There, I had confessed my sins, but there was still more to do. “I’ll try harder not to lose my temper,” I continued.

And then my confession came full circle when Riley—her face red and wet with tears—gave me my penance.

“I don’t like it when you yell at me. I don’t want you to do that anymore,” she said. Oh, if all of life’s reconciliations were that easy.

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A Gift of Our Faith

Luckily, in our faith, it can be that easy, thanks to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I love that our faith offers us this reset button for the times when we mess up. All we have to do is seek it out.

Of course, sometimes that’s the hardest part. No one likes to admit to being wrong and sometimes it’s not easy to say, “I’m sorry.” Or we convince ourselves that, as long as we say we’re sorry to God, that will make it all better. You know the old argument of “Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest? Isn’t it just as good to confess them straight to God?” Well, that’s partly true.

Here’s an example. Last week, Riley hit her brother, Alex. My husband, Mark, and I immediately reprimanded her and then made her apologize to her brother and give him a hug. Now, if Riley had just quietly said to herself that she was sorry for what she had done, a key part of the reconciliation would have been lost. My husband and I—serving as intermediaries—helped her follow through on the reconciliation process.

That’s the role of the priest to whom we confess our sins. He helps us wipe the slate clean and move on, but not before giving us a penance to remind us to try harder next time and to remember that our sins affect other people as well as God.

While it’s a good idea to seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it is also a good idea to practice it in our everyday lives, too. Here are some ways that this sacrament can become a part of your daily life and your family’s also.

Get it out. Have you ever done something that you thought you got away with, but it keeps nagging at you? Did you borrow something from someone without his or her knowledge and accidentally break it? If so, tell the person. A lot of times what you imagine might happen is worse than what actually happens.

Sit down as a family after dinner one evening and offer this opportunity. Keeping the secret might be worse than telling the truth.

Go to Confession. If you haven’t taken part in this sacrament for a while, make an effort to go.

Say, “I’m sorry.” As I said before, saying “I’m sorry” is never easy because it means we messed up. Try to make an effort to own up to your mistakes and make those words part of your vocabulary. But also be aware of not saying it just for the sake of saying it. You don’t want to lose the meaning behind the message.

 

One reason the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so satisfying is that it allows us to get things off our chests that are bothering us and move on. It can be very therapeutic. And it’s a good model for our daily lives, too.

Sometimes there are things that weigh on our minds and hearts that we just need to get out, but don’t necessarily want to share with anyone. One of the best ways to do this is to get yourself a journal. That way you can write down things that are bothering you without having to worry about what anyone else will say or think. You can buy a nice notebook or journal to write in or you can keep a journal on your computer.

Whatever method you choose, try to make an effort to write in your journal regularly, maybe 15 minutes every night before bed. And sometimes go back and read what you’ve written. It might offer you some valuable advice or insight for a later time.

 

One of my favorite explanations of sin is that sin makes your soul dirty, kind of like a grass stain on the knee of your new pants. Try this experiment to help you visualize what effect sin has on your soul.

Get an old white T-shirt. Use washable markers or paints to cover the shirt with examples of sins that you may have committed, such as lying or cheating. Invite your family members or friends to join you. Then have an adult help you put the shirt in the washing machine. When it’s done, examine the shirt to see if the marks have disappeared. Even if the marks aren’t completely gone, it was important for you to try to get them out. It’s always good to seek forgiveness.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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