Going to Confession with Your Enemy

When I had gotten into the line for confession, I had a list of things I wanted to say. But everything changed when a person I knew sat down next to me.

I liked the person. I loved the person. But I was mad at the person. Something had happened a while back that I had forgiven, but not forgotten.

You know, when Jesus says you have to forgive “70-times-seven times,” He’s not kidding.

I felt the memories stirring within me, and I was getting angrier.

“This isn’t fair,” I said to Jesus in the tabernacle. “Now, I’m going to come into confession an even bigger sinner than I would have if this person didn’t sit here!” Isn’t it ridiculous that I didn’t think the sin was there, because I wasn’t thinking about it before? Isn’t it ridiculous that I was thinking I needed to be sin-free while sitting in a line to confess my sins?

I thought about the mix of emotions I had for the person: I care about the person. I love the person. I’m mad at the person. How am I supposed to let things go? What am I going to say to the priest? Because I am actively committing the sin of not forgiving right now, and I’m not exactly ready to say that “I promise to amend my life and sin no more,” as it says in the Act of Contrition. I am not capable of forgetting what happened.

We inched closer to the front of the line. Probably, the person next to me had no idea that I was still mad. The person was probably serene and praying the rosary. I’m sure the person’s list of things to confess was shorter than mine. And I was feeling even guiltier by the minute.

If the person hadn’t sat next to me, I wonder whether I would have remembered to confess that particular sin. Or maybe I would have said something dry, like, “I have held a grudge.”

But I got into the confessional, and a whole torrent of things came out: that I had been angry. And I was angry now. And I was currently not able to be near the person without remembering. And if Jesus wanted me to forgive, He was going to have to do a lot more because I’m totally not even capable of forgiving!

In short, it was one of the rawest and honest confessions I’ve had.

This confession happened years ago. God bless that priest. I don’t remember what he said to me. What I do remember is that I walked out of that confessional, and I wasn’t angry anymore. Instead of heavy, I felt lighter. Instead of agitated, I felt peaceful. I could look at the person and just love that person. Because I do love that person.

I didn’t forget what happened, but I needed the grace to forgive deeper than humans are capable of forgiving. It was grace that gave me peace, grace that gave me the ability to let go, and a grace that the Lord brought that person next to me in line.


Photo by Dwayne via Flickr