How many variations of this theme of have witnessed or experienced:
A young child breaks something belonging to a parent. The child tries their best to hide the evidence, but the parent realizes something is missing. So the parent asks what happened. And no one says anything. Until finally the child cracks under the pressure. They approach their parent and, through tears and a choked up voice, they say, “I did it! I broke it!” There is typically some form of punishment, but it is not as harsh as the child feared.
We see the scene play out in sitcoms. I have witnessed it with my own children. I have experienced it as a child with my parents.
When we commit an act that creates destruction, we try to hide the evidence. We fear that if we come clean and admit to what we have done the absolute worst will happen: the relationship will come to an end, we will get in a lot of trouble, we will be a disappointment, no one will ever love us again.
And that is the reaction if all we have done is broken a lamp.
When we have done something we know to be wrong, something that violates our conscience, we want to hide what we have done. Our initial response is often one of self-preservation and protection. We try to cover up and divert attention. We keep it a secret.
And for as long as we can maintain the secrecy, we become more and more consumed with guilt for what we have done, paranoia that we will be found out, and shame for who we have become.
Yet when we are able to admit what we have done, we receive freedom from that shame, paranoia, and guilt. The consequences of our actions still remain. But we are no longer overcome with the pressure of trying to hide our mistake.
In terms of spiritual practice, admitting our faults is called confession. Confession is not something we do that absolves us of all wrongdoing. Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Sorry doesn’t fix the lamp.” That is true. But “sorry” can go a long way to maintaining and healing the relationship.
I have broken a lot of lamps in my life–both literal and metaphorical. I can’t undo that. But I can own up to it. I can admit it.
And when I am free from my guilt and shame and I am not living a life of paranoia, I can begin to restore relationships.
Sorry may not fix the lamp, but confession is definitely good for the soul.