Dose of Truth

The surprising power of confession

Tim Richards

Several months ago my friend who helps edit my columns, sent me the link to an article Barton Goldsmith wrote for the Tribune News Service on Nov. 21, 2021. The article discussed how we respond to personal failure. Dr. Goldsmith observed how even the most gifted people make foolish mistakes. He offered the following suggestions when we fail:

First, admit it when you make a mess of things. It is easy to be frustrated when we fail; however, getting mired down in self-loathing is never healthy. Dr. Goldsmith shared how once, after making a mistake, he briefly considered retiring or moving to Australia. He did neither. The sooner we get busy redoing what we failed to do right in the first place, the better.

Second, do not try to get away with it. Minimizing our mistakes is not an effective strategy for dealing with them. When we refuse to come to terms with our errors it is only a matter of time until they resurface. Mistakes we do not deal with come back to haunt us with sleepless nights and upset stomachs. Worse yet, hiding our failures makes them more difficult to overcome.

Third, covering up our faults usually takes more time and effort than simply fixing them. Dr. Goldsmith suggests, “you may be better off starting over. The do-over will usually take less time than you think… Don’t opt for the lazy way out. Do it right and you will like yourself and the resolution much better.”

Fourth, apologize even if your mistake was unintentional. Asking forgiveness and making amends are important steps in the process of getting on track. The sooner you apologize – the sooner you experience forgiveness and regain your self-respect. A Harvard study reports that when a doctor acknowledges medical mistakes and apologizes to the family, even if the error resulted in the death of a patient, there are rarely other dire consequences.

Dr. Goldsmith’s advice is sound, but far from new. In the Bible, after David’s cover up of his affair with Bathsheba and her husband’s murder, he initially refused to deal with his sinful fault. He attempted to cover his sin and ignore his guilt.

He later wrote about the impact of refusing to confront his failure. David described the experience of covering his sin this way, “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” (Psalm 32:3-4, NLT)

David demonstrates the consequences of hiding our sin and shows that we only begin to heal when we acknowledge our failure. God wants us to be honest with him and with ourselves. Such honesty lightens our emotional baggage, leads to our forgiveness and speeds up our recovery. In addition, it is simply the right thing to do.

Tim Richards

has been a pastor for 37 years, serving five churches, including his current church, The Refuge in St. Louis, which he founded. He and the congregation minister to those who are hurting and do their part to expand God’s kingdom. Tim and his wife Kelly have five children. “A Dose of Truth” which he has written for more than 25 years appears in 13 newspapers. His book, “Thriving in the Storm: Discovering God’s Peace and Perspective in Turbulent Times,” is available from Amazon. Feel free to contact him at Photography is another of his skills. Pastor Tim’s photos may be viewed at