"Confession is a discipline that functions within fellowship. In it we let trusted others know our deepest weaknesses and failures. This will nourish our faith in God's provision for our needs through His people, our sense of being loved and our humility before our brothers and sisters. This we let some friends in Christ know who we really are, not holding back anything important, but, ideally, allowing complete transparency. We lay down the burdens of hiding and pretending, which normally take up such a dreadful amount of human energy. We engage and are engaged by others in the profound depths of the soul." (Dallas Willard)
When I first read this quote, one phrase jumped off the page at me. It only makes sense within the context of the entire quote, but the words of the phrase are incredibly important for us to grasp.
We lay down the burdens of hiding and pretending . . ."
We don't usually talk about hiding and pretending as burdens - if we talk about them at all. For the most part, we don't admit we spend much of our lives hiding and pretending.
We live in a culture that encourages us to hide and pretend. We're taught that we need to look like we have it all together all that time. That it doesn't matter what is going on inside, on the outside everything should be fine.
Se, we pretend and we hide.
We pretend that things are going great even when they might not be. And we hide how we are truly feeling behind our answers of "fine" and "good."
But, if we're honest, even if only to ourselves, all of this hiding and pretending does get burdensome. It takes a lot of work to do it all the time. We've gotten so good at pretending and hiding, but deep down we want to stop doing it all the time. Deep down we want others to know what's really going on and how we really feel. We want to "lay down the burdens of hiding and pretending" that we've been carrying.
That's where the rest of the quote by Dallas Willard comes in. Willard is telling us how we can lay down the burdens of hiding and pretending. We can only lay that burden down by choosing to be honest with people and allowing them to know our weaknesses and our failures - by choosing transparency instead of hiding and pretending. We have to choose to be honest with each other about the good and the bad in our lives. Because it's only when we are really known by others that we stop carrying the tiresome burdens of hiding and pretending that have been stealing our energy.
It's not that we need to share every detail of the hard and the bad in our lives with every person we meet. But that, as Willard said, "we let some friends in Christ know who we really are." When we do this, things are different because we're not carrying the same burden anymore. It allows us to be more of who we really are with everyone, even if not everyone knows every detail.
"To confess our sins before others, though, helps let go of this exhausting need to keep up appearances. It frees us to live truthfully and humbly in the mercy of God." (Stage 2: Community with Others, Vantage Point 3: A Way of Life)