Tag Archives: confession

Druidry and Confession

I’ve felt for some time now that the Catholics are on to something with confession. There are times when it would be an enormous relief to be able to tell someone the things.

As Druids don’t have a clear set of rules in the first place, it would be down to the individual to decide what they need to confess. We wouldn’t need to frame it as sin necessarily. Failures, shortcomings, mistakes, bad ideas, poor responses – whatever a person felt uncomfortable about, could be usefully owned in a safe space.

The wise and experienced Druid hearing the confession could then tell us what they think of it. There are times when it would be really helpful to hear things like ‘this is just ordinary human error.’ ‘Clearly you could not have know how this would work out’ and things of that ilk. Feedback that isn’t forgiveness, but that could be permission to forgive yourself. We all mess up, but it can be hard not to beat yourself up over mistakes.

Confession in a Druid context wouldn’t be about penitence or punishment, but it might be about restorative justice. Again there are lots of times when it might be of great benefit to have someone else’s wisdom in the mix. Imagine someone who can say ‘you really do need to apologise for this’ or ‘here are some things you could try that might be restorative.’

People who are having a hard time with their mental health and/or dealing with abuse can end up feeling responsible for things that aren’t of their making. The process of confessing could open the way to hearing that you may be taking too much onto yourself or judging yourself too harshly. It could signpost the way to therapy, or to kinder thoughts. Sometimes being told that you can’t possibly be responsible for what’s going on is the first step to recognising an abusive situation. None of this requires much in the way of qualification, I think. Just enough life experience to spot when people feel responsible for things they cannot possibly be responsible for.

There would be relief in being able to say to someone ‘this is how I have messed up’ and hearing their take on it, offered in kindness. Obviously there’s no formal way to do this at the moment, but it is something we might be able to do for each other.

Pagan confession

Confession turns up in a number of spiritual traditions – it’s most strongly associated with the Catholics, but there are Jewish practices around confessing and seeking forgiveness as well. Asking forgiveness from God/s comes up often enough in different faiths and implies an act of confession as well. We don’t really have a Pagan tradition of confession, at the moment, although I have no doubt one of you, more erudite readers will be able to point me at something historical. Looking at modern practice, there’s plenty to see online though.

The facebook confessional is popular with people of all and no faith as far as I can see. Rare is the day when someone doesn’t air a shortcoming, failure or ‘sin’. One of the things that makes this work, is that other people will then admit to the same, or put it in a less alarming perspective. We all have moments when we feel like we’ve failed, and keeping sight of the essentially human nature of these failures is important. None of us is perfect, and by sharing our shortcomings, we are also sharing our humanity.

Confession can easily be the prelude to a pledge to try and do better. Not one of Yoda’s do or do not moments, but an act of trying, that brings every possibility of adding another failure to the heap. For the addict trying to quit, or the parent who needs to learn patience, for the person learning to manage anger, or working out how not to self destruct, it’s always a learning curve. You might want to change, but the odds are there will be false starts, hiccups, relapses along the way. Confessing them, recognising them, we become stronger, not weaker.

I’ve tended to attract confessions. I’ve heard some heavy and challenging ones down the years, as well. As far as I can make out, I landed with an ability to listen compassionately, and people who need to confess have always sought me out. I believe that whatever a person has done, when they get to the point of being able to own it, recognise what was awful about it, and think about trying to do better and making amends, they’ve turned a corner. Even though this can be the first contact you have with the horrors in a person’s past, this is the critical moment not to reject them, and to give them a chance to move on. The person who voluntarily says ‘I have messed up, really badly’ is the person who probably wouldn’t do exactly the same thing again. Much of what underpins the worst kinds of behaviour is a belief that it was justified, or there was entitlement. Once that belief is let go of, a person has grown and changed, even if they aren’t totally sorted yet.

I am pondering what I’m going to be doing with myself in the longer term. One of the things I’m wondering is whether actively setting up as a confessor would be productive. Not to tell people they are forgiven, or to dish out Hail Odin’s or anything daft like that, but to listen. I don’t think it’s my job to forgive anyone or to tell anyone that gods, spirits or victims would forgive them, but to help people figure out what would take them forward, what would enable them to earn forgiveness where it is needed, and to help people forgive themselves – that might be a line of work to explore. I’d be interested to hear what everyone thinks, for or against.

Confessions of a grumpy Druid

I write a lot about tolerance, inclusion, giving everyone the space to walk their own path in their own way. These are ideas that I believe in and value. Some of it is more aspirational than actual. Patience, for me, is very much a work in progress. The person I am least patient with is invariably myself but I certainly do get very grumpy about other people. Politicians and fundamentalists tend to top my list. Where I encounter narrow-mindedness, cruelty, bigotry, my capacity for any kind of compassion is sorely taxed. And I shall be honest, I am not beautifully tolerant of idiots either. Not people who lack intelligence – genuine shortage of brain power is not a thing to mock anyone for. Deliberate ignorance and refusal to think, is a whole other matter.

The trouble with grumpiness, is how easy it makes it to sit round being smug, self important, holier than thou and not actually get off my bottom and try to do anything. I know folk who do use their grumpiness as a spur to action, and I respect that tremendously. But it can so easily become an excuse in its own right, or a justification.

I’ve become ever more conscious over the last few years that people tend to have underlying motives for what they do, which aren’t always apparent from a casual look at the surface. What seems like laziness, may in fact be a person who is crippled by low self esteem. What seems like self importance or pride may be the defences of someone who is monstrously insecure. Fear, anxiety, lack of self confidence, these things all manifest in quite odd ways, and seldom self announce. They are, after all, the things anyone would prefer to hide.

How I respond to other people doing things I think are less than perfectly clever or useful, can be very much ‘in the moment’. One of the things I’ve been trying to do is work on how I think about other people, and the time I’m willing to put in on trying to see things from other angles. I ask ‘why?’ a lot, and the more I do it, the more helpful I’m finding it. Making sense of odd experiences in my history can be cathartic. Sometimes just having a best guess as to why, makes it easier to let go and move on. There was a person, years back, who went from seeming very pro and friendly, to becoming decidedly hostile. I spent a lot of time examining my own behaviour – if I could have found something of my making to correct, I would have gladly done so. Then it finally struck me, only yesterday… the change happened when said chap started relinquishing dreams and aspirations, and I did not. Was it as simple as that? Did he just resent me for not quitting as well? I won’t know if that was it, but it casts so many things in a subtly different light.

I’ve found repeatedly that being gentle and reassuring towards hostile and domineering people can have a surprising effect. If the hostility is defensive, then working to seem less threatening, less spiky myself, make things easier. It is realistically a lot easier to change myself and see how others change accordingly, than it is to expect change.

I have also learned to treasure my grumpiness. I don’t air it in public much, but it is like a smoke detector, going off now and then. Sure, sometimes it’s more of a burned toast scenario than a house in flames one, but it doesn’t hurt to be alert. I spent too much of my life trying to suppress my own frustration and unhappiness, a path that does not lead to anything good. If something irritates me, I’ll give it a good, hard look these days. I may go as far as a bit of satire (boil inducing or otherwise!) I do vent my grumpiness. It’s not, after all, my aim in life to try and attain whatever the pagan equivalent of sainthood might be. Just to do the best I can with what I’ve got. And to bitch about politicians, idiots, journalists, bigots and irredeemable assholes.