Many years ago, I did something I deeply regretted. I was so upset and ashamed and I went to Confession almost in tears, wondering how I could be forgiven. There was a queue and I was so nervous sitting on the pew waiting. I remember feeling embarrassed as I made my Confession, admitting to my mistakes, almost sure that I would be thoroughly reprimanded for my sins. The first thing the priest said to me was “God forgives you, but you also need to forgive yourself.”
I was completely taken aback. The priest had heard something in my confession that I hadn’t even realised. I was so absorbed by my own shame that I kept berating myself over and over. I was letting a mistake I had made define what I thought of myself, and it had made me lose sight of God’s mercy. After that Confession I went to the chapel to Our Lady and I prayed. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. If God could forgive my sins, then I could forgive myself.
That Confession taught me something beautiful about the sacrament – that it was not a sacrament of shame or fear or judgement, that Confession is a sacrament of joy, of love and of mercy.
I never again felt that shame going to Confession.