A Lesson in Confession for Us Narcissists

I said something stupid at small group last week. I didn’t realize it was stupid until three minutes after I’d said it, once I’d processed the reactions and realized my mistake, which wasn’t so much a mistake as a public unveiling of the grossness in my heart.

Yuck. 

I’d been feeling terrible about it for a few days and had just about decided I’d need to confess it, that perhaps apologizing to the group was the only way I was ever going to forget about it and move on. But then I heard a lesson on, of all things, narcissism, and wondered if maybe there wasn’t something sinister lurking beneath my desire to confess.

I can almost guarantee my small group doesn’t remember my failure last week. Likely they thought it was a stupid thing to say, but I’m 98 percent certain they’ve forgotten about it. 

So why do I feel so motivated to confess?

Narcissism: inordinate fascination with oneself.”

I saw this tweet the other day: “If we knew how rarely other people think about us, we’d spend a lot less time caring what other people think of us.”

I think a lot about what other people think of me, and I wanted to confess because I wanted to manage my image. I wanted all my friends to know, “I know I said something wrong, but I am not so messed up as to not know it was wrong.” I want them to perceive my comment not as a symptom of my sick heart but as an out-of-the-ordinary stumble. 

Perhaps, if the confession is especially good, they’ll think, “Wow. Jennifer confesses really well. She is super righteous.”

Yikes.

Sometimes when I confess my faults to others I’m doing it not for forgiveness but for affirmation. I almost wrote “attention,” but then realized the attention was assumed. Certainly people are thinking of me. In confession I want to be sure they think well of me.

I want the person across the table to look in my eyes and say, “No big deal. I still think you’re perfect.”

What I need instead is for somebody to say, “Huh. I hadn’t even realized you did that because I don’t pay that much attention to you.” And then follow it up with, “But that sounds really terrible. Good thing God’ll forgive you of it.”

James says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James does not say, “confess your sins to each other so that you may all think well of one another.”

Too many times I’ve chosen a good reputation over healing.