Author Topic: When you really, really feel like a sinner...  (Read 4805 times)

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Offline Cassiel

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When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« on: March 25, 2008, 06:39:23 PM »
I know we are taught we all are sinners - not just that we sin, but actually are sinners.  I am not sure what the distinction is, unless it's the idea of original sin giving us this proclivity to sin rather than to do what's right.  9 times out of 10, given two ways to go, I'll choose the one God commanded against.  I haven't realized this very fully till now; generally in the West we justify ourselves right out of guilt.  Or we might feel "sorry" - at least, sorry God's angry about it, if not sorry for what we actually did. 

When I am fasting (and particularly when I fail at fasting) I start to realize just how messed up I really am.  I know we're not supposed to get despondent, and I try to pray for mercy in these times, but how do you maintain your buoyancy when you feel weighed down by your own sinfulness?  How do you reconcile God's love for mankind, and the terrible feeling of your own fallen nature?  The only thing I know to do is realize how far gone I am (how sinful), and try to believe that God loves me anyway, but that is so, so hard...  Thoughts?
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Offline ozgeorge

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2008, 06:47:25 PM »
how do you maintain your buoyancy when you feel weighed down by your own sinfulness? 
I use prayers of thanksgiving and praise.

How do you reconcile God's love for mankind, and the terrible feeling of your own fallen nature?
By accepting that God is greater than I am, and greater than the worst sin in me.
Take out a fifty dollar note- how much is it worth?
Now screw up the fifty dollar note, tread on it and throw it in the garbage. - how much is the fifty dollar note worth now?
Same goes for God and you.
If you're living a happy life as a Christian, you're doing something wrong.

Offline Heorhij

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2008, 06:54:36 PM »
I know we are taught we all are sinners - not just that we sin, but actually are sinners.  I am not sure what the distinction is, unless it's the idea of original sin giving us this proclivity to sin rather than to do what's right.  9 times out of 10, given two ways to go, I'll choose the one God commanded against.  I haven't realized this very fully till now; generally in the West we justify ourselves right out of guilt.  Or we might feel "sorry" - at least, sorry God's angry about it, if not sorry for what we actually did. 

When I am fasting (and particularly when I fail at fasting) I start to realize just how messed up I really am.  I know we're not supposed to get despondent, and I try to pray for mercy in these times, but how do you maintain your buoyancy when you feel weighed down by your own sinfulness?  How do you reconcile God's love for mankind, and the terrible feeling of your own fallen nature?  The only thing I know to do is realize how far gone I am (how sinful), and try to believe that God loves me anyway, but that is so, so hard...  Thoughts?

Dear Cassiel,

I think you need to contact your priest ASAP. The Great Lent is supposed to be the time of confessions. Also, apart from sacramental confessions, one can always have a spiritual conversation with one's priest (it's not quite the same as confession). Get encouragement from your priest, that should help!

Just a thought... (even though I am not really qualified to advise, you better talk with your priest about it!) Is it possible that you are too hard on yourself fasting?

I'll pray for you!

George

Love never fails.

Offline Pravoslavbob

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2008, 07:01:51 PM »
Remember, that, in spite of our self-destructive nature, God's love for us literally knows no bounds.  This is a great mystery, impossible for the human mind to comprehend! How can He who is unfathomably higher than us than we are to ants care for each one of us as if we were His only precious child?  But it's true.  The Fathers say that God is immeasurably closer to each one of us than we are to ourselves.  Can you imagine?  

Don't take your eyes off the reason for the Great Fast.....Pascha!   The feast of feasts.  Orthodox Christians live for Pascha!   God loves us so much that he accepted the most ignoble death possible in order to save us, and bring us to life.....and not just life, but genuine, ultimate, abundant life!  Life that human words cannot express!  Recall the homily of St.  John Chrysostom from Paschal Matins. "...Let even those who have tarried (in fasting and preparation) until even after the eleventh hour have no fear, but approach the feast justified.  The table is fully laden....Ye who have heeded the fast, and the heedless...  Feast all of you sumptuously.....  Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave....Oh hell, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?  Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.  Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.  Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave...."  (Sorry, this is just an inaccurate paraphrase,  the best that I can recall the homily at the moment.   I will try and find the actual text for you! :))

So keep your eyes on the boundless love and Grace of God.  It may be hard to believe at times, but He loves you, you, Cassiel, as though you were His only child!  Recall how in the parable of the prodigal son, the father ran to greet the son while he was still a great ways away.  This is how God relates to us!  Even when we are just beginning to repent, He rushes to embrace us.

I will add you to my prayer list this lent.  God bless you in your struggle.  I hope that my poor scribblings have given you some comfort.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2008, 11:40:00 PM by Pravoslavbob »
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Offline Cassiel

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2008, 07:22:42 PM »
Whew.  Thanks - I needed your words (and St. John Chrysostom's!), and I definitely need your prayers.  This is my first Lent and I haven't experienced a Pascha yet.  I'm just working my way into an Orthodox view of the world, and a lot of baggage from my previous spiritual life (Roman Catholic) likes to work its way in.  In addition I'm a catechumen preparing to be baptized and I just don't want to screw things up, you know?  But I think that's a fallacious manner of thinking. 

As for fasting too hard it's a distinct possibility that I've discussed with my spiritual father before.  I have some baggage in that respect, too, which contributes to a lot of fast-related angst.  Siiighhh...
I'm going to find that homily of St. John and print it out.  I need the proper focus in all of this.
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Offline Pravoslavbob

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2008, 07:35:50 PM »
Here's the real text of the homily.  ;)

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived therefor. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.



http://www.oca.org/FSsermons-details.asp?SID=4&ID=10

I'm glad that the words of this great Father have given you comfort and reassurance!
« Last Edit: March 25, 2008, 07:44:34 PM by Pravoslavbob »
Atheists have noetic deficiencies.


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Offline Justacloserwalk

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2008, 10:44:14 PM »
I have been sick for several months. I would like to get well enough to fast. Pray for me!

Barbara
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Offline serb1389

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2008, 11:04:56 PM »
I agree with Heorhij (george).  You definitely need to talk to someone ASAP about this (like your priest).  When we cry out for help, we need to be heard.  And we need to understand that God hears us as well. 

Everything everyone has said has been awesome, so I will not belabor the point.  I will only add that I will also pray for you, and that things can compile on you VERY quickly. 

I usually tend to go do a ministry thing, just to help me refocus.  Like I will go visit someone in the hospital, or go talk to youth, or just give alms or help someone, so that I can refocus and realize what i'm in this for.  Jesus Christ.  Not myself, well...at least not totaly, I am going for that whole salvation thing... ;) ;D

Offline Myrrh23

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2008, 01:38:11 AM »
Hey Cassiel! ;D

Quote
When I am fasting (and particularly when I fail at fasting) I start to realize just how messed up I really am.  I know we're not supposed to get despondent, and I try to pray for mercy in these times, but how do you maintain your buoyancy when you feel weighed down by your own sinfulness?  How do you reconcile God's love for mankind, and the terrible feeling of your own fallen nature?  The only thing I know to do is realize how far gone I am (how sinful), and try to believe that God loves me anyway, but that is so, so hard...  Thoughts?

Have you ever tried to pray The Jesus Prayer? Here's some good information on it:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_prayer
I've often had this "failure feel" problem, especially since I grew up being taught that God was a vengeful God who was all the time breathing down my neck, looking for sins in hidden crevices....yeah, my mum was a fundie. :P
I typically look for God's love and mercy for me in Nature....
I think that if you're writing to us about your despair concerning "how far gone" you are, you should know that God sees that remorse in you, that longing to be reconciled, and it pleases Him. Since God is a God of Love, pure love has to have a lot of patience...I think God is just patiently reaching out, waiting for us to grab ahold of His hand...kinda like this:
*I am no longer posting on OC.net*

We all have a Black Dog and a White Dog inside of us. The One you feed the most eventually eats the Other.

All are tempted, but it is the courageous person who clings to God during the storm. For the Ego is a prison, but Christ is the Liberator

Offline Thomas

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2008, 08:42:10 AM »
I always look at Great Lent as a time of turmoil in my soul.  I am reminded of St Peter and Judas.  Both committed the grave sin of denying Our Lord yet St Peter repented and sought forgiveness and became a great Apostle and eventually Martyr for Christ as a result of accepting God's love and forgiveness.  Judas despaired in his sin denying himself the same repentance and forgiveness available from God and chose instead to kill himself.
We are like both Peter and Judas---we know we are sinners and unworthy of God's Love yet like St. Peter and Judas we have two dialogues going on---one message from the Holy Trinity calling us to repentence in the knowledge that when we repent Our God will forgive us or one from Satan that tells us ours sins are so grave who could ever love us enough to forgive us, despair and die. I choose the witness of St. Peter over that of Judas every Great Lent.

Thomas
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Offline stewie

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2008, 09:07:56 AM »
some great advice in here.

just being aware of your sins and having a desire to repent is an important first step. 

keeping a proper fast is very difficult.  I mean, I can abstain from food (that's the easy part), but it's all the other stuff... my actions... that always drag me down.  What good is fasting from meat and dairy if my own greed, envy, and lust keep dragging me down.  It's a struggle.  But that's the point!  Keep your eyes on the goal.  Pray and read scripture often.  Throughout Lent I will have a bible within arms length 95% of the time.

I am very far from where I want to be, but I am closer than I was last year.  And that is something else to keep in mind.  Progress is slow and we are often impatient, but as long as we are taking those first baby steps, we are on the right path and should not give up.

Offline 88Devin12

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2008, 09:37:57 AM »
Am I too hard on myself as someone who isn't yet in the Orthodox church?
I'm fasting, but i am also trying to abstain from things like desserts, coke, television, video games, etc...
While I've been fasting, like the original post, I begin to see what is really wrong with me. But while other people keep telling me what a good person I am, I tell myself inside that I am still worse of a sinner than they are, that I need to constantly think about what i've done and am doing and repent for it constantly.
What do I do?

Offline Thomas

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2008, 10:39:40 AM »
Devin,

The season of Great Lent is the time of preparation for the feast of the Resurrection of Christ, It is the living symbol of man's entire life, which is to be fulfilled in his own resurrection from the dead with Christ. It is a time of renewed devotion: of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is a time of repentance, a real renewal of our minds, hearts and deeds in conformity with Christ and his teachings. It is the time, most of all, of our return to the great commandments of loving God and our neighbors.

In the Orthodox Church, Great Lent is not a season of morbidity and gloominess. On the contrary, it is a time of joyfulness and purification. We are called to "anoint our faces" and to "cleanse our bodies as we cleanse our souls."

The very first hymns of the very first service of Great Lent set the proper tone of the season:
Let us begin the Lenten time with delight ... let us fast from passions as we fast from food, taking pleasure in the good words of the Spirit, that we may be granted to see the holy passion of Christ our God and his holy Pascha, spiritually rejoicing.
Thy grace has arisen upon us, O Lord, the illumination of our souls has shown forth; behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the time of repentance (Vesper Hymns).


It is our repentance that God desires, not our remorse. We sorrow for our sins, but we do so in the joy of God's mercy. We mortify our flesh, but we do so in the joy of our resurrection into life everlasting. We make ready for the resurrection 

I noted that you discussed fasting but left off the other two parts of the triad of Great Lent practices, prayer and Almsgiving.

ALMSGIVING/GOOD WORKS
 St St. Maximos the Confessor in First Century  gave a presentation on Love no. 79 and notes that Almsgiving heals the soul's incensive power; fasting withers sensual desire; prayer purifies the intellect and prepares it for contemplation of created beings. For the Lord has given us commandments which correspond to the powers of the soul.
                                                         
During Great Lent it is a practice of the Orthodox Faith to redouble our personal struggle to live a sanctified life through the worship of the Most Holy Trinity, Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving/Good Works (Philanthropia).  If we fast we should use the funds saved to perform acts of Philanthropia---if we cannot fast we should closely examine things in our life that we waste funds upon that could be better directed in acts of Philanthropia.

PRAYER
During Great Lent, Orthodox Christians try to redouble their efforts at praying regularly.  There are many extra opportunities to enter into corporal or community prayer with the Canon of St Andrew, the Akathist Services to the Virgin Mary, Presanctified Liturgies, and the opportunity to attend those Morning Prayer, Compline, and Vesper Services that we usually don’t have time to attend on the non-Lenten period of our life.

This is also a time for us to go to confession.  It is a time to forgive those who knowingly or unknowingly hurt us and caused us pain.  It is a time to ask others to forgive us for our own actions known and unknown that have caused them pain, sorrow, and hurt. When we have done these things we are ready to make the one of two required yearly confessions of the Antiochian Archdiocese. It is the expectation that minimally every Antiochian Orthodox Christian will go to confession during Great Lent in preparation for Pascha. [Please note frequent Confession is the goal]

The Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian is traditionally said many times throughout each day during Great Lent, in addition to our daily prayers.

It has been said by several Bishops recently that fasting is actually the least of acts we do for Great Lent.  fasting is of no value if we so not  also increase our prayers and almsgiving/goodworks  along with it.

Thomas
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Thomas

Offline Marc Hanna

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2008, 11:35:47 AM »
In the Coptic church we go to our father in confession prior to the fast to discuss with him how we should fast.  With him we are to choose a level of fasting that is appropriate for us, for it is better that we accept a lesser degree of fasting and succeed than to have a strict fast and fail.  Quite often converts (myself being one) when they first covert or are in preparation try to jump in at full force and do everything to the extreme, but this is one of Satan's tactics to separate of from God - by sending us in full speed ahead he knows the we will likely run out of steam, and when we have failed he puts thoughts of gross self-indignation into our heads and fills us with shame so that we may be so inclined never to return.

Is any one of us more a sinner than the others?  Are we not just simply all sinners?  If we are not to judge others should we not restrain from judging ourselves too?  For Christ is our judge.  We then should only discern our evil deeds and repent and refrain from usurping Christs judgement on us which is rightfully His to employ.

Be not discouraged by your sins, for this is what Satan wants.  Did St Paul, who at first persecuted the church, allow his sins to inhibit his ministry?

Blessed are we when we recognize our sins and desire to do better.

God bless

Offline 88Devin12

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2008, 11:42:26 AM »
I've prayed more often than normal, and have tried to keep a regular prayer "pattern" (or rule?) every day.

As for almsgiving, I try to give in church after the Litany of Supplication and the Great Entrance, but I didn't know whether I could or should give alms as the Orthodox do in the church.

Also, when I pray, I generally try to keep my head down, because I don't see myself worthy of having my head up to God. I feel so bad for things I say and think, and I repent for them. But how do you repent without being sorrowful and without feeling very guilty and shameful? I just don't know how to do those and still be joyful at the same time. I think I would just feel like I wasn't really sorry for my sins if I asked for forgiveness, but then was happy and joyful at the same time.

Offline Marc Hanna

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2008, 11:48:57 AM »
It is okay to feel guilt and shame regarding our sins it is an indication of our sincerity but to let that guilt and shame separate us further from God is not right.  In our love for God we should ask for His forgiveness because that is what He desires of us; and when we have confessed and repented we know that He has forgiven us and in that we may rejoice.

Offline Cassiel

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2008, 11:57:13 AM »
So, when you say "to let that shame and guilt separate us from God" do you mean by allowing it to stop us from praying or dedicating our lives to God?  I've let that happen several times in my life and have pretty much sunk my teeth in this time and determined not to let go.  This is helped by continually realizing, "Lord, to whom would we go?"  I've become convinced that what the world has to offer is garbage, apart from God.  If it's just a matter of doing this, then is the struggle simply in remembering that those sort of despondent thoughts (I use the term "despondent" in a worldly sense - I am not sure of all the spiritual connotations of the word) are from the evil one?  Because I can endure, I think, with God's help, if that's the case.  Sometimes I simply feel so beaten down.

But I wonder if this morning I got a glimpse of what that "joy-creating sorrow" is about.  I was praying in front of the Christ icon before matins and I spilled everything to Him.  I rattled on and on inwardly about my inner confusion, my weakness, my self-disgust.  Then I had some peace, especially after participating in matins and really being able to be attentive with my heart (which is not often the case: I'm often distracted at prayer, especially in corporate prayer).  Suddenly a lot of things seemed to make sense...maybe unless you get really beaten down, they can't mean as much.  I don't know.  I am beginning to wonder if this discomfort is so bad after all. 

I'm a catechumen myself, Devin, and I wonder the same things sometimes - whether I am going too hard, before I'm even brought into the fold officially.  Yet I am under the guidance of my spiritual father, and I genuinely trust him (something you should consider if you haven't, because if I were doing this fast on my own I'd truly be a wreck).  So I get some comfort there.  I'm going to talk to him soon about all this.
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Offline Marc Hanna

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2008, 12:56:15 PM »
Yes, I think you got the point of what I was saying.  And yes God does break us down sometimes - He defeats us so that He is able to reshape us.  This is where David was when he prayed "Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice."  David was humbled in his sins but then turned to God in repentance.

Offline ytterbiumanalyst

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #18 on: March 27, 2008, 04:30:59 PM »
Devin,

It is true that Lent is a time of sobriety, and I find myself taking sin even more seriously during this time than I do at other times. Feelings of guilt can help us in this time to view our sin seriously. Yet guilt is not necessarily edifying in itself. The devil and his angels can bring us false feelings of guilt that can actually prevent us from seeing our sin in the correct way. We may feel overwhelmed by sin and may have trouble experiencing joy or hope--which are fruits of the Spirit.

This is one reason why Confession is so important. I did not confess my sin until I was received into Holy Orthodoxy, and I remember strong feelings of guilt over what I had done. I would confess to myself and to God, but it never stuck because I never told anyone else about it. When I confessed before my priest, I took the confession more seriously. When the feelings of guilt would emerge, I could deny them by telling myself that I had confessed those sins already.

So I understand where you are. Guilt is a powerful weapon, and like all weapons can be used for good or for evil purposes. If the guilt is bothering you, you can talk to Fr. Andrew about it. You can't experience the sacrament of Confession until you've been received into the Church, but sometimes a little-c confession can help.
"It is remarkable that what we call the world...in what professes to be true...will allow in one man no blemishes, and in another no virtue."--Charles Dickens

Offline Cassiel

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2008, 04:48:41 PM »
Devin -
Ditto what ytterbiumanalyst said.  I am coming from Roman Catholicism, so I can vouch for the therapeutic efficacy of confession.  I've also made many little-c confessions to my spiritual father and another priest with whom I chat frequently.  It would be really hard to endure, otherwise.  We're built for this, I think.  If we don't confess it messes up our mechanism.
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Offline Justacloserwalk

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #20 on: March 27, 2008, 05:42:52 PM »
I can relate to what you are saying about confession. It frees you from guilt and condemnation.

Barbara
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Offline Thomas

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Re: When you really, really feel like a sinner...
« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2008, 08:57:21 AM »
I split the  board at this point as Myrrh23 presented issues pertaining to Roman Catholic Confession being refused, while a good topic, I have sent it to the Orthodox-Catholic Discussion Board where it can be more fully discussed between Roman Catholics and Orthodox and we can continue to discuss. Please continue the Roman Catholic Confession discussion there and our current topic here. Both are really good topics.

Thomas
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