Lance Armstrong and Confession

Lance Armstrong is confessing to Oprah.

Or so that's the headline to entice us into watching her four-hundred hour interview of him on her network.

I doubt he's going to confess.  He might admit to doping or whatever he did to cheat.  He might apologize, sort of.  My experience with most apologies is that they are more explanations than apology.  Apologies say, "I'm sorry," then sit in the aftermath of the hurt.  Explanations go on to explain away the behavior and/or tell the person wounded why she shouldn't have really been hurt or offended or angry. Explanations justify one's hurtful actions or inactions.  Confessions realize why we do something that hurts another doesn't make the hurt go away.  

I suspect there's an agenda behind Lance Armstrong's admission.  A book deal, an angle to be able to compete again, a way to resurrect his brand.  Confessions don't do that, either.  They don't have agendas, other than simply admitting the wrong-doing and offering yourself to the consequences.  Confessions might hope for a repair of the relationship or an elegant moment of forgiveness and reconciliation where birds sing, rainbows appear, and all is right with the world, but that's not the primary reason one confesses.

Confession might drive the person to speak personally with those he/she has hurt and damaged.  I doubt Lance Armstrong will apologize and ask forgiveness for those he threatened and sued and attacked for saying he broke the rules...when they were right and he was lying.  Confession often urges us to repent to those we have wounded in our sin and salve their wounds when we can.

Confession is a bare naked, raw moment of truth-telling.  Confession is digging into the deep, ugly depths of our dark motivations, our spectacular shortcomings, our behaviour that damages others and betrays trust.  Confession begins and engages the process of realizing the impact and consequences of our sinful behavior.  Confession takes full responsibility for our actions, realizing that we do things that are hurtful to others, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.  Confession admit that actions that may be fully justifiable to us injure the soul of another.  Confessions put the relationship and love for another above our need to validate our own awesomeness when keeping the image of that awesomeness comes at the expense of another's soul...and at the expense of our own soul.

Not too shocking, then, that the Rite of Reconciliation (commonly known as "Confession") is not one of the more widely sacraments in the Prayer Book.  The Sacrament of Confession invites us to go to a place most of us - well, honestly all of us - would rather not go.  We don't like to show our deep flaws, our rampant imperfections, our selfish motivations, and our selves that will injure and destroy others to keep the image of our awesome selves in tact.  Sitting in a holy space with another and laying our our sins bare is profoundly vulnerable and takes incredible strength.  

Because confession is such a raw, bare moment, the Church invites the priest, the confessing person, and God into that holy moment.  No tv cameras, no mass audience, not even Oprah (who is not God, in case anyone is wondering).  Just an intimate group of people who gather in a holy space together.  It's so intimate and holy, we don't speak of it afterward.   And in case the confessing person feels too awkward, the priest asks her/him to pray for the priest, a sinner as well, at the end of the Episcopal rite.  Yep, every one in that room, save God, is a miserable offender.  

In the rite of Confession, the person who confesses hears absolution pronounced by the priest.  We are forgiven for our sins.  We also realize that a part of confession is honestly living in the aftermath of our sinful action.  Some relationships can be restored; others cannot.  Some damage can be healed; some wounds are too painful for us to salve.  Confession in the Church reminds us that our sins are forgiven and the consequences of our sins are a reality of life.

No, Confession is not glamorous or easy.  It is not fun and pretty.  And it is beautiful because we are reminded even in our mess, our dark agendas and our hurtful actions, even in our painful mistakes, we are beloved of God.  We are forgiven.  We are treasured.

No, I don't think Lance Armstrong will confess.  But what a witness if he did.



Margaret said…
Thank you. In a culture that has skewed the concept, one can only hope that someone 'out there' will get this message!
Anonymous said…
Spot on, lovely one. I'm United Methodist, not Episcopalian, so the rite is even less recognized and used. But I've found that many UM preachers recognize its power and have a sort of unofficial rite they use--which I had the heartbreak and privilege of experiencing this past fall. It ripped my soul out, but to see God quietly standing in that moment loving so fiercely was burned into my memory forever. No way could I ever do something like that with cameras, or Oprah.
Unknown said…
As usual, we agree. I wonder, though, if it is even possible for real confession to happen a) in any public setting, b) without addressing individuals harmed somehow (if there are any) c) without identifiable consequence or accountability. I’m not sure what I mean by “c”. I’m not talking about shaming or revenge. In my own life, there is the temptation to say “OK. That was really hard. But it’s over and done. Where’s lunch?”.

Make any sense?
Amy+ said…
DH and I were having this convo last night over dinner as we discussed the week. There was no sense of truly being sorry for any of it, or for trying to make reparation. I, too, wonder why he would do this now? There has to be a reason, because it certainly did not make amends or strengthen his public image.
revlauriebrock said…
Absolutely makes sense. I say, when discussing the sacrament, that confession is not amnesia. That there are consequences to our behavior, and part of the confession is accepting those consequences without turning into the victim. I.E. some relationships have been so damaged if there has been abuse that the victim likely cannot safely be in relationship with the abuser, even if s/he has fully confessed and made amendment of life. Confession means we are forgiven, not that there's a memory wipe of what we did to harm another.

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