When I was preparing to make my first Confession, back in 3rd Grade CCD, my pastor told us a story about his first confession as a little boy. He wanted to make a really GOOD confession, so he wanted to have a really good sin to tell.
He decided to confess to the priest that he had killed his mother.
The priest, rightly, suspected this might not be the case and inquired a little more into why this 7 year old thought he killed his mother. The story of desiring to have a really good first confession came out, and the priest gave him a little talk about the importance of saying sins you actually committed.
I gleaned from this that a good confession did not necessarily entail having a big mortal sin to confess, but I was still confused about what makes a good confession. I always seemed to be confessing the same things every time, which, when the goal is never to commit those sins again, seemed to be the spiritual equivalent to spinning my wheels.
I was not just trying and failing to do better - I did not fully understand why these sins were a continual struggle or how to start stepping towards defeating those perpetual spiritual struggles.
It was not until going to a talk given by one of my favorite Dominican priests on the 7 Deadly Sins that I started to understand how to make a good confession. That talk gave me the words to name the root causes of my little spiritual struggles.
The one that blew my mind the most was Acedia. I had never heard the term before. Acedia has to do with sadness at a spiritual good. This is when you will do ANYTHING besides pray, go to mass, or pursue other spiritual goods. The very thought of going to confession or praying fills you with sadness and restlessness. Suddenly all those times I convinced myself I had "just gotten too busy" to pray seemed less innocent.
Having a name for root sins was a game changer for me. I could tell the priest specifically what I was struggling with and get much more fine tuned advice that addressed the root issue - not just my venial sin symptoms.
The beauty of examining your sins to find that root pattern is that each of the deadly sins is countered with a virtue. There is a practicality in the teaching that forces us to see ourselves as we really are, but also gives us the virtue road map to lead us out of those sinful patterns. It allows us the brutal honesty necessary to make a good confession, and the fighting chance to really mean it when we say "I firmly resolve with the help of your Grace to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasions of sin."
This post is part of the monthly CWBN Blog Hop. Check out other responses to "my true feelings about Confession" over at Reconciled to You.