[This got long…bear with me.]
Our pastor has insisted from the pulpit that people not confess general faults but always give specific instances of all sins.
I have no problem with respect to mortal sins. I know when I’ve committed a serious sin–my conscience won’t let me forget. Describing and enumerating such sins is not a problem.
But venial sins are much harder to remember and count. I often only have a vague idea that what I’m doing is a venial sin, until I consider it later. Example: I have a list of errands to do—say, things to do to maintain our property, some grocery shopping, balancing the checkbook, etc. I have a duty to do my share of the work for the household. Instead though, I spend more time watching football, playing on the computer, reading the newspaper. There’s some laziness involved. Eventually everything gets done; it may be put off, but it gets done in the next few days. I’m a “last minute” kind of guy…stuff gets done but I tend to wait until it has to get done.
See the problem? Do I count the number of times I played solitaire instead of “getting to it?” How many stories I read in the paper as I stalled? How many football games I may have watched as I surfed the TV? Or just that I stalled a lot one Saturday. Or am I being a scrupe to be getting down into such minutiae?
Here’s a complicating factor as well: I’m bi-polar and while my meds keep it under control there are still behaviors that can be traced back to the condition–a short fuse at times; sleeplessness; low-grade depression that makes it difficult to get started, a tendency toward compulsive actions. Some confessors understand the issue; some don’t and seem to see it as excuse-making…which it is to a certain extent (but how much?). A sin is a sin whatever the circumstances, although the circumstances (bi-polar) may render a sin less serious than it would have been with full intent aforethought.
What I have done in the past is described my laziness as best I could in confession, but the counting part as our very young pastor–who is a very bright and delightful man–insists must be done is a daunting order.
To boot, I’m almost 70. Remembering, never mind counting, all these kinds of sins is not something I can do any more. I do know what kinds of sins I commit; after this much time I know my faults and have a pretty good sense of the types of sins I struggle with day to day. But after a month passes to say I was lazy on 3 days vs. 10 days vs. every single day and how many times each day is simply not possible. How should I confess these sins honestly?
This must be a problem for a lot of people–I can’t imagine it isn’t an issue since our pastor has found it necessary to preach on it more than once from the pulpit. He recommended a daily examination of conscience–which I try to do. But remembering the product of my examinations is still an issue. And journaling has never been something I was good at–especially at the end of the day…and who wants to leave a dairy of one’s sins lying around the house?