Feel Guilty? Just Click Here.

by May 1, 2007

guilty.jpgI’ve seen stories lately about a growing number of online confession sites where people can anonymously confess their private sins to the world. Some of them are run by Christian organizations and churches, who hope that their sites will spur people to confess things to God as well as the Web. The pastor who started mysecret.tv says here, “We just believe it is a catalyst to have people open up to family and friends and God.”

Other sites are meant to be cathartic release valves for people to vent their guilt to no one in particular. The oldest site, dailyconfession.com, was started by Disney producer Greg Fox. In an interview, Fox says, “It’s a lot easier to tell the `truth’ in complete anonymity. You can get feedback and find out you’re not so weird. You’re not the only one who feels that way or has this phobia.” There are plenty of people who are seeking this kind of reassurance that they’re not so bad after all: the site gets more than a million hits a day.

If anonymous online confessions really are a catalyst for people to open up to God and each other, then great. My feeling, though, is that most people just want to spew their guilt into the ether, where no one can personally confront them or hold them accountable, and leave it there. And the millions of people reading these confessions just want a voyeuristic peek into the transgressions of others so they can feel better about themselves.

True confession doesn’t just mean vomiting up a list of your sins. It’s part of the process of salvation, which is not just a one-time event but an ongoing progression. Paul commands us in Philippians 2 to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” By confessing our sins to God, we allow his light to penetrate the darkness inside us, for the purpose of allowing him to will and to work for his good pleasure through our lives. True confession means opening ourselves up to God’s transforming power.

In James 5, we’re also commanded to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” I think he’s talking about spiritual healing. When we carefully and quietly allow other mature Christians to see our weaknesses, they can pray intelligently for us, personally encourage us with practical wisdom, and rebuke us when they see signs that we’ve relapsed into our old sin. The result is healing from sin and a healthy relationship with God.

It’s pretty tough for all that to happen on an anonymous website.