Confessing "Safe Sins"

Have you ever been in a small group with people that confess safe sins? Someone will say, “I need to be honest with everyone tonight. I need to have full disclosure and submit myself in honesty. Like ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan, I need to give it to you raw!” So you brace yourself for this crazy moment of authenticity and the person takes a deep breath and says … “I haven’t been reading my Bible enough.”

Ugh, you, dirty, dirty sinner. I’m not even sure I can be in a small group with you any more. Not reading your Bible enough, that is disgusting. And then once he’s gone someone else will catch the safe sin bug too and will say, “I need to be real too. I haven’t been praying enough.”

Two of you in the same room? Wow, freak shows! I can barely stand it.

But what happens when people start confessing safe sins is that everyone else in the room starts concealing their real junk. I mean if I was surrounded by confessions like that in the eighth grade I would have instantly known I couldn’t follow the “not reading my Bible enough” guy with my own story:

“Soooo, this weekend when it was snowing I told my parents I was going to the dump to sled but instead I was really just digging through a 200 foot mountain of warm trash looking for pornography.” And the same principle would have applied to me in my late 20s. I wouldn’t have been honest sharing my struggles with Internet porn if everyone else confessed their “safe enough for small group” sins.

And that sucks. It sucks that as broken as we all are, as desperate as we all are for a Savior, we feel compelled to clean ourselves up when we get around each other.

But this blog has taught me something unbelievable. If I stop writing tomorrow, this will be the lesson I cling to the most.

When you go first, you give everyone in your church or your community or your small group or your blog, the gift of going second.

It’s so much harder to be first. No one knows what’s off limits yet and you’re setting the boundaries with your words. You’re throwing yourself on the honesty grenade and taking whatever fall out that comes with it. Going second is so much easier. And the ease only grows exponentially as people continue to share. But it has to be started somewhere. Someone has to go first and I think it has to be us.

We’re called to give the gift of second to the people in our lives. To live the truth, to share the truth, to be the truth.

Let’s give the gift of going second.

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  1. alexis says

    This reminds me of something Aaron Weiss (mewithoutYou)

    "the good things: we keep a secret. anything bad we do, we confess those things to each other…"

    I've been trying, for the past two weeks, to really embrace this truth. Oh intensity.

  2. Violet says

    Wow…what a fabulous post! So many times I've been in a group – head down, avoiding eye contact, waiting for someone else to go first. Because even though I have something to say, I don't want to go first and risk being judged! Going second often means I either don't speak or I say something different or watered-down from what I intended.

    I'm the kind of person who tends to let it all hang out, though, and I often feel like the only sinner in a room full of saints. Next time, I'm going to remember this essay and give my fellow group members the gift of going second.

  3. says

    Hey Jon, I'm gonna go ahead and be a little bravenonymous-esque here.

    This post really spoke to me (in more ways than one, because I first heard it on your audiobook. Lol.) because although I was raised in a Christian home, when I was a kid, think 8-13, I was addicted to online pornography. Go ahead and read that again. An 8-year-old girl, daughter of strong Christians, addicted to internet porn. It wasn't because of my parents or some traumatic experience or anything like that – it was just me. As time passed and I got older/started understanding more about God, it just made me feel more depressed and angry at myself. I was on the verge of suicide before God finally got a hold of my heart.

    These past few years, I've struggled with recovering from all that mess because I've kept it all to myself. Not even my parents know everything. But God has done a miraculous amount of healing in my mind and heart, and I'm close to healthy now.

    Interestingly, a few years ago, shortly after God saved me, someone prophesied over me that I had a story to tell – a big one that people needed to hear. I've accepted that slowly and started to share a bit, but mostly only when I've been backed into a verbal corner.

    But after reading this post, I realize that I've grown and matured enough to make myself vulnerable to others. Who knows what kind of things my small group friends are struggling with – who knows if they feel as trapped by shame as I did? Maybe by sharing I can help ease the load. So I'm going to dive into that.

    Thanks for showing me that it's okay to go first.


  4. says

    This is one of my favorite posts and favorite parts of the book. It seems funny on the surface, but uncovers an ugly truth about each of us. We want to pray for others, we want God to hear our prayers, but we want to look good while doing it.

    Read my lips – God doesn't care how you look when you come to Him.

  5. says

    This is a very good blog post (sorry for commenting too late, just found this blog!).. and really resonated with me. Sometimes when I go to church, I feel everyone around me is putting up some sort of mask, and pretending to be someone else. It's frustrating.

  6. charline payne says

    Great point. I happened to have had a lot of public speaking experience.
    I know from classroom teaching;that if I’m not open first that no teen will share.
    Also,no preacher is worth his/her salt if they are not personal in their sermons! Char

  7. says

    I know it’s like 2011, so I’m so 2000 and late on commenting on this post, but it changed my life a couple of years ago, and it will always be my favorite. Thanks :)