Connecting local responses around the world
Recently I had the opportunity to spend a week working with a group of young people. We spent the time in a world very different from their normal environment of a large city. And you could say that the week was about
appreciating the strengths of these young people.
At the end of one the sessions that I ran, one of my colleagues a retired priest started to talk to me. ‘You know’, he said, ‘what you do is very similar to Confession, but you turn everything upside down.’ And
thus began a very interesting conversation.
For those who don’t know, Confession is a practice of the Catholic Church. (It is also known as the Sacrament of Penance or the Sacrament of Reconciliation.) I will give my understanding of the sacrament. Others are more
than welcome to correct my limited understanding. During Confession, an individual reflects on his life since their last Confession and identifies the occasions on which they have failed to live their lives according to the laws of the Church. The individual then confesses these failures to a priest in confession. There is a discussion on how to do better in the future and the individual makes a commitment to do better.
According to our discussion, you can think of Confession of an ‘appreciation of weaknesses’ and what we have here is an ‘appreciation of strengths’. In one case, the individual reflects on the failures to meet a standard and resolves to improve. In the other, the individual reflects on the capacities that they have and become aware of how they can use those strengths to improve. For me, this was a fascinating insight that opens up lots of
avenues to explore.
One of the avenues that we explored during our conversation was the approach of other religious practices. The idea of analysing transgressions or sins is a widespread idea in religions.We did identify some what we call ‘non-conformist’ religious practices where there was less emphasis on ‘appreciating weaknesses’ and I have enjoyed myself beginning to explore those.
I am sure that for many, particularly those with a background in the Salvation Army, these ideas are almost self-evident. But for me, comparing and contrasting the different ways of thinking has been very interesting.