Confession has long been held to be a path to redemption, healing and catharsis. Whether part of the ritual of confession and absolution as practiced in the Roman Catholic Church, or as the example of Raskolnikov’s crippling need to unburden himself in Crime and Punishment shows, the thought of “getting it off your chest” has a deep appeal.
Anonymity – real or imagined – also plays an important role. Movies and books are full of scenes of the guilty party telling all to a stranger, a priest in the confessional or the understanding barman.
A new website has emerged, surfing on the confluence of these forces. On clearmyguilt.com, people can confess anonymously and then receive absolution (or condemnation) at the hands of their peers.
The two US students behind clearmyguilt.com told news services how they selected around 15 confessions a day from the thousands they were receiving, and posted them. Other users could then judge whether the “sin” was forgivable or not, and make comments.
While some of the “sins” were obviously made up (and I don’t know how some of them could be “selected” as worthy of publication), many others actually seemed to be somewhat heartfelt, touching on infidelity (one of the largest categories), dishonesty or downright disgusting (not to mention unhygienic) behavior. And the comments demonstrated everything from understanding and forgiveness to condemnation and revulsion.
I don’t expect it to be a Facebook-style hit, but it does raise some interesting questions about our need to communicate, to express remorse, to boast and to gain acceptance, justification or confirmation of our guilt.
The site gained a lot of attention in its first couple of months, so much so that the demand overwhelmed its server capacity. It closed down briefly (something it says is unforgiveable) but is now back.
I have to confess, I have been back reading more. Mea culpa.