"They said to one another, "surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that's why this distress has come upon us." Genesis 42:21
The transfer of distress from Joseph to his brothers comes from a 20 year old act was never accounted for in their lives. They (correctly) experience the weight of an old crime.
It's the kind of thing we want others to feel when they wrong us--a transfer of that distress--your bad acts toward me go back onto you. Yet, it is something I would prefer to shortchange in my own life--to keep my bad acts, my over-reacts, my criticism and selfishness private and "give them to God," and move on.
However, in those relationships when I have exerted myself, where I have authority and influence, I need an open accountability from people in addition to my accountability to God.
In relationships and opportunities, I need the accountability--the honest assessment of my direction and decisions-- from scripture, from worship/preaching, from study, from prayer, from other people: the accountability of the consequence of saying what is true about my sin.
Part of the challenge I face is that not every wrong act, and especially wrong thoughts are exposed to direct consequence. It think I kind of get away with a critical spirit or indifference.
That is where the transfer of distress or guilt comes in. I may not have to confront the wrong and make it right--but the failure to do so will leave me carrying that knowledge and feeling the distress. Unsaid sin is not unexpressed sin.
Is it enough to have Christ hold me accountable or do I have to go through the potential embarrassment and loss of a feeling of control that comes when I confess to other people? When I do, I heal faster and learn more and I am better equipped to pass on making the same mistake again.
Is confession to Christ enough--well of course. Sin is sin against God--David said, "against you and you only I have sinned" and Christ alone has the power to forgive and extend grace and mercy to relieve the due punishment of the sin.
However, adding to that reality of faith is the opportunity for God to use other people to mold me and move me to greater maturity. It also may be the quickest path to ease guilt.
The first step of true confession to God is accepting responsibility in the temptation to default to indifference or excuses--adding people to the confessional work adds the element of greater good, greater healing, greater recovering coming from the bad.
The reality of good coming from my bad encourages me to open up, and not isolate or cheapen the grace of God by keeping it a secret between God and me.
The season is changing, and it's time to clean out the closet a bit and show others what needs to be tossed as it it ill fitting and out of style.