As a divorce lawyer on the West Side of Los Angeles, who is gay, and sends many of my clients to various 12 step programs, I am often made privy to their scary, humiliating, and guilty secrets. I believe all the major recovery programs have at least one step that involves sharing those darker pieces of our lives with someone so that a sense of relief, and insight, can happen.
Over the past 17 years of practicing family law, fighting for fathers and helping abused men get their lives back, I’ve heard just about every twisted, dirty and perverted thing one human being can do to another. Whether the damage is done emotionally, financially, sexually or physically, I’ve heard it.
Confession of sins is an age old practice and there’s a very good reason for it. On the one hand when we bottle up our emotions and let them stew, all it does is cause internal harm. We chew on them and think that we’re going to come up with some insight and a final answer that will provide relief – but that rarely works.
For those who are of various religious persuasions that encourage the sharing of sins, they are often given forgiveness, told to do a routine of prayer, and to “sin no more.” Fat chance. Life is all about sin. It’s about transgressions and overstepping in personal relationships. We have to make mistakes to learn, and some of our mistakes prefer to make repeat appearances.
One client of mine was attending a 12 step program for a sexual addiction. In and of itself, sex is not a big deal, but his fiancee, who didn’t know about his ‘alternative’ activities would probably have not approved. He called me up one night, and decided to unload his “sins” on me because he felt comfortable having the security of the Attorney/Client privilege with his confessor.
I’ve lost count of the number of married men and/or heterosexual men who choose to share with me their ‘drunken exploits’ with their best friend or ‘old college roommate.’ These guys know that I’m not going to be shocked by the fact that they kissed a boy or ‘scratched an itch’ to relieve some stress.
Being a confessor who can share with these men my own experiences, and being able to make them feel less alone, less twisted, and helping them realize that they are just human is extremely rewarding. When I show them that their personal foibles, whether economic (the salesmen’s padded travel expense account being a very common confession) or the momentary lapse in judgement with a dancer, does not make them a terrible person, I know that I am relieving an additional source of stress for them. We become connected in a new, deeper, more sincere and authentic manner.
We all have done things we regret. We all have people to whom we cannot make apologies or amends, but if we can share that pain with an understanding person, we can make our peace with the pain. Confession is good for the soul not because of the penalties or prayers assignments, but because we connect through our common humanity.
Relationship experts will tell you that the key to long-term relationships is intimacy and openness. Intimacy is not all about tab A into slot B, it’s about sharing your feelings, your emotions, that means your fears, doubts and the things you least want to share. But it is only by doing so that we can grow closer to each other, whether in a romantic relationship, or a friendship. Those clients who have called me, or made appointments to come see to tell me their deep dark secrets have gone well beyond the professional relationship. We are now close in ways that they couldn’t conceive of prior to opening up. When we share our fears, we find that we are not alone. When we share our lustful, crazy, embarrassing thoughts or deeds, we find that most others have the same lustful, crazy embarrassing moments.
The biggest reward of this type of confession is that a lightness returns the one who is confessing, and a sense of purpose and joy, descends upon the confessor. At least that’s been my experience.
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