Confessor

confessor
The visitor seems to naturally fall into the role of confessor. Perhaps this transformation occurs because the visitor carries a certain anonymity. Unlike the town priest who will still be there tomorrow and the next day, and also unlike the trusted old friend who might know the history a bit too well, the visitor has neither history nor legacy in your space, and so serves as the perfect vessel for offloading troubling secrets.

As a consultant, I’ve grown to expect my client’s whispered confessions. I hear about a lot more than the business difficulty, that’s for sure, and this should not be surprising since the business no more lives in isolation from the rest of its principal’s existence than the principal does. Those admissions carry the patterns reinforcing all the client’s complaints as well as clues to their resolution. I often need to engage no more fully than lending an attentive ear for my client to hear themselves resolve their own trouble.

The world needs a good listening to. I scream and nobody hears a thing. I whimper and I can barely hear myself. I rail and rant and people seem to deliberately stop listening to my story. I appear at the formal hearing and consume all of my allotted three minutes before the council telling a warm-up joke. I go out for beers with a trusted friend and the background noise cancels any hope of unburdening anything.

A visitor comes to supper and everything feels different. Maybe it’s that I conscript them into chopping the tomatoes or setting the table. Maybe I’m just on my best show-off behavior, but the conversation shifts then and I hear myself admitting to shortcomings I couldn’t see in my own mirror before. As if the visitor were a garbage truck, I offload some festering crap. I’m not always even sure the visitor hears, but she listens, and that seems plenty and enough respite.

One of my forebears was a circuit rider, a horseback traveling preacher, and I suspect that he served the confessor role in those isolating pioneer times. For the cost of a parishioner setting another place at their table, the circuit rider could listen, offering solace by his mere presence, and perhaps forgiveness and atonement by simply riding away.

Whether we are burdened with sin or simply overwhelmed, the confessor lightens the accumulated load. He need not command any contrition. Confession seems contrition enough.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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