Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
The practice of confession is an ancient tradition of our Judeo-Christian faith. Without confession, our deepest emotional pains, including fear, anger, and resentment, remain buried within us like corrosive agents.
Similar to toxic environmental wastes, these buried toxic emotions eventually leak out to contaminate all of the vital relationships of our lives. For example, deeply buried resentments toward an authoritarian father may fester for three or four decades and then erupt as an irrational anger toward all authority figures in our contemporary adult life. Fear of an emotionally suffocating mother may linger for years and prevent our creating healthy intimacy in any of our adult relationships.
If we cling to these old poisons, we also run the grave risk of excluding God’s healing mercy. The words of Proverbs are explicit in this warning: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (v. 13). Step 5 is the active step of breaking our hardened hearts to expose them to God’s tender mercies.