Confessing to that Which I Did Not Do

Posted: August 2, 2015 in When Church Hurts
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I was watching one of those real life crime drama shows recently.  I can’t remember if it was Dateline or 20/20 or 48 Hours, but the story was about a young woman who was interrogated bullied by the police for hours on end until she agreed with them that she had slammed a baby to the floor causing a head injury that led to his death.  She was convicted and in prison when the fact that the child had suffered a concussion weeks before that had caused his death.  Over and over, the reporter asked, “Why did you confess to something you didn’t do?”  And it was that question that brought revelation to me.

I “confessed” and pleaded for forgiveness from my former pastor repeatedly for several years – not only for something I didn’t do, but because they wouldn’t tell me what I had done wrong, I confessed to everything and anything I could think up that I might have done.

This in turn gave my abusers the ammunition they needed to justify their judgment and ostracism.  My confessions gave them the ability to say, “See!  She admits she is the problem!  What we are doing/have done is absolutely the right thing to do!”

Like the woman in that interrogation room, I had been judged as guilty and I just wanted to make my accusers happy so that the nightmare would end.  Like that woman who believed the police officers when they told her that if she would just admit what she had done, this would all be over and they could all go home, I came to believe what I heard from the pulpit – that confession leads to forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration, so if I would just hit on the right thing to confess, we could all breathe a collective sigh of relief and it would all be over.

What I didn’t realize is that, also like that woman, my confession only led to my accusers being able to further convict me and sentence me to years of ostracism, persecution, and judgment which snowballed into more confessions as continued to hope to finally say the magic words that would lead to my release.

Instead, my spiritual imprisonment led to my belief that since the leadership of the church thought me unworthy, unwelcome, undeserving, God must think the same.  And that is where the spiritual abuse became most damaging – making me question my acceptance by and relationship to God.

And when I finally decided to recant and demand an apology for the way that I was treated – because even if they had justification, the way I was treated was totally wrong – rather than apologize, they told us to leave the church, further attempting to spiritually abuse me by making me feel completely rejected by them and by God.

I think many of us who have been wrongly accused by church leadership have probably at some point done exactly what that young woman did in that interrogation room.  We have confessed to things we didn’t do with the simple hope that what we and the leadership claim to believe is truly true.  That if we confess, we can be forgiven, and ultimately experience reconciliation and restoration and move on to an even deeper understanding and appreciation of what Jesus is all about.  But, like me, many of you discovered that it doesn’t work that way.

And to you I say, “Don’t wait to be released from that prison by working harder and harder to convince your captors that you are repentant and worthy.  Break free by getting away from them.  Don’t let them continue to undermine your spirtual well-being (which you know impacts every other aspect of your life).  And know that they are the ones who are truly in prison because they do not live what they claim to believe – which ultimately means they don’t really believe at all.

  1. a prodigal daughter returns says:

    I saw that special too and I remembered my previous life of being the scapegoat in the room for all that went wrong no matter where I was, or whom was actually the culprit. My ex played a role in this, believing it his spiritual duty to point out faults and my wifely duty to repent. Between the church expecting me to repent after abuse “you caused your husband to hit you because you aren’t submitted enough” to “you have the spirit of Jezebel” if you ask a question I spent my entire day looking for sin, and repenting of it. Of course not one minute of my life involved the belief that God even liked me. Because I’d grown up in that environment it was all I knew of people, of church, of God and of life. No wonder I had very little will to live. There is no beauty in a life of constant condemnation. God was merciful and lead me out of church to find Him in truth.

    Before I left I shared with a friend about my husband correcting me of some attitude and she replied “tell me, do you ever do ANYTHING right?” No, because my heart is an idol factory, I thought. This is worm theology taken to an extreme and there are those proponents of it, that know how to exploit those with a sensitive conscience. It gives them power and control and their victim doesn’t trust their own mind. Instead of learning to trust your powers of discernment you are taught to trust only the leaders or husbands discernment (which is ultimately all about exploiting you) God has given us a spirit of love, power and of a sound mind, embracing this allows me to use my sound mind to discern narcissistic exploiters that populate quite a lot of leadership positions within and without the church. Identity robbers is what they are

  2. Wow, I have totally experienced this! Pressure to confess, but after prayer I could find any conviction from the Lord. So I could not confess, because that would be false repentance.

  3. Amen! This is amazing stuff. Totally went through this last year. Good to know I’m not alone!!

  4. Eliza says:

    When I was standing up for the truth, the three elders wanted to meet with me alone. Praise God I was smart enough to take my husband with me. By God’s mercy and grace, I do want to have a quiet and gentle spirit which is great worth in God’s sight, but that doesn’t mean that I have to submit to wolves! Trusting Jesus Christ to work in my husband’s heart has led to his spiritual growth and understanding, for the most part, that I don’t trust the leadership of most churches, because they are corrupt and part of that good ole boy network that has nothing to do with believing and obeying the truth and following Jesus Christ. May Jesus bless us with discernment and trust in Him and His Word.

    • Ellen says:

      I’m not sure that having a quiet and gentle spirit is the goal if God made you to be a champion for what is right and true. I tried that, too, but now I realize I should have been flipping over tables in the temple!

  5. Brian says:

    Very well stated and I have to add that I am flabbergasted by the lack of decency in these churches. It is like the patriarchy has a license to harm others, praiiiissse God! What a load of bull crap. A soft answer turneth away wrath is fine if that is what you desire to do but what if your anger is about injustice, indecency to women and children, for instance.
    Look at the response of the Baptist preacher, Doug Wilson, to the rape victim, Natalie Greenfield. He says the perpetrator is guilty, then says Natalie at 13 years old is not as guilty and that her family is responsible for not protecting her! Patriarchy, especially in evangelicalism, is pure poison.

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