Do this to free yourself. Proverbs 6:3
What is your dirty little secret — the thing that you would most hate for everyone else to know about you or what you’ve done? Extra-marital affairs? Tax evasion? Drug use? Sexual orientation? An abortion? Pornography addiction? A serious betrayal? A “disgusting” fantasy? Crooked business dealings? A whole string of lies, cover-ups and evasions?
Some of us carry big secrets that eat at us in our private moments and in our sleep. Our shame keeps bubbling to the surface no matter how hard we try to suppress it, forget it, numb it or pretend it isn’t there. Keeping our secret hidden, from others and from ourselves, consumes so much energy that we often go through life basically exhausted from carrying its weight.
What if you had the opportunity to let it go, bury it for good and be free of it once and for all? Well, you can! You do not have to go on the “Jerry Springer Show,” publish it in a tell-all book or post it on Facebook. This need to “unburden oneself” is a universal experience, but there are better ways to approach it than spilling your guts to a television audience or an expensive therapist. What other avenues do you have?
I am told that the American Indians had a tradition, that I really resonate with, called the “Eater of Impurities.” On a high holy day like a solstice, the shaman — the wise man of the tribe — would sit with each member of the tribe individually and suggest something like, “Bring into your mind some thought, some feeling that you have that you wish no one else to know; some idea or fantasy, something you feel aberrant or abhorrent; that you feel you must suppress and hide away.”
Often that person would be so frightened that he would hardly be able to allow that thought to arise in his mind for fear that it might somehow leak out his ears and be heard. It is then that the shaman encouraged the individual to see how frightened he was of exposing himself, of being vulnerable, of approaching freedom from its power. After some time the shaman would say, “Now, give me that thought.” And then the thought or image would be brought out and shared between them. And the darkness in which it was held would be dispelled in the light of the trust and compassion of the moment.
Hopefully, this sounds like something we have in our own Catholic tradition. It is called the sacrament of reconciliation. Maybe the question is not, “Do I have to go to confession?” Maybe the real question is “Can I afford not to?”
Save “I forgot my mornings prayers” for your Act of Contrition. For the big stuff, find a compassionate priest, prepare yourself carefully and ask God for courage. Then dump your real garbage. Give it to the priest to hand off to God and be free of it!
Father J. Ronald Knott