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Bishops & Stake Presidents – Handling Confession (3 of 3)

Use Open-ended Questions in Confession

Using open-ended questions when someone is coming to you for a confession is useful in gathering meaningful information. Some suggestions of what to ask might be:

I assume from the fact that you are here, that you have some things you want to talk over.

  • What would you like to discuss?
  • What worries you about your current situation?
  • What makes you feel that you need to do something about this situation?
  • I’m curious to how all this got started can you tell me more about that?
  • How long have you been dealing with these issues and what have you attempted to do about them in the past?

After getting a clear picture of the problem, you can then determine how to help them best. When someone has been dealing with pornography addiction or sex addiction issues for many years, the best thing that you can do is refer him or her to professional counselors who specialize in the treatment of this issue.

If a person has already been through the confession cycle time and time again it is unlikely that they are going to change without specialized help. There have been great inroads made in understanding how this addiction works and what helps in maintaining sobriety. Oddly enough the repeated confession cycle to church leaders can become a part of the addictive cycle.

Do NOT Pressure

The real challenge for religious leaders seems to be in finding that unique balance of encouragement without in any way condoning or minimizing the sin. In reality, if this sin is not checked it can lead to far worse things. It is progressive and destructive by nature. Leaders need to clearly give that message while at the same time not being too harsh or condemning. If a leader comes across as too harsh or condemning they can feed into the addiction cycle due to the way the Limbic part of the brain works.

Remember that addicts will not be pressured they must be led. I have had more than just a few clients inform me that they will never go back to certain leaders with their problems because it just made it worse. They left feeling condemned, threatened, and hopeless.

If a person walks out of an ecclesiastical leader’s office feeling worse than when they went in, the probability that they will come to talk to you has decreased. Again, remember that the way in which a leader responds and communicates can make it either more or less likely that a person will feel safe enough to talk about what is going on with them and thus begin the process of recovery and change.

Perfection is NOT Required

The goal of this article is to encourage the proper balance of justice and mercy when dealing with an individual who struggles with this addiction. It appears that when one is out of balance on the justice side, the individual suffers and also when one is out of balance on the mercy side the individual suffers. True mercy cannot rob justice, but it is also true that mercy can satisfy the demands of justice. It is my opinion that when one is trying and willing to confess and enter treatment if necessary, that mercy comes into play notwithstanding the continued struggle with the addiction.

Does one need to be perfect for the atonement of the Savior to come into effect? What addicts struggle with is a thirst that never seems to go away. The work of recovery is to help them understand that there is water that can satisfy that thirst.

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

John 4:14

They must be led and not pushed to that source.

The way an ecclesiastical leader responds to those who suffer from addiction can either help lead them towards this water the Savior is talking about or away from it.

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View a presentation we did in a ward for youth and adults.

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    If a person is coming to you confessing, most likely they have been beating themselves and have already humbled themselves and are in the healing process.