My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things. I firmly resolve, with Your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us, in His name, my God, have mercy.
I’ll be honest, there are times that the act of contrition makes me want to cry. It can be a much needed sucker punch to my soul. If I really think about what I’m praying (as we all should), then the words of the act of contrition reach down into my soul and wake me up.
Not only do we freely choose sin, which is wrong, but we also fail to do good. Choosing wrongly is bad of course, and so often I want to stop speaking there. I want to choose good! I want to be holy! I want to be a saint! I don’t like choosing the wrong thing, much less something that offends God. But the perfectionist in me really, really doesn’t like the word failure. I don’t like failing to do anything, whether it is to get out of bed on time, show up to a meeting prepared, or be holy. The notion that I’ve failed at anything makes me want throw a temper tantrum and deny my failure at the same time. But a failure to do good? Sucker punch to the soul.
In essence, the act of contrition defines sin for us: choosing to do wrong and failing to do good. There are times that we can choose to do the wrong thing. We may choose to do wrong by showing up at a business meeting in our pajamas. That is wrong, but it isn’t a failure to do good. When we talk about ‘good’ in this sense, we are referring to an objective good, that which is holy and in line with God’s will. Sin is, flat out, a failure to adhere to objective goodness, a failure to be holy, and a failure to live in accord with God’s will. Ouch.
By failing to do good, we sin against God. Not only do we sin, but we sin against God, against a being who has done nothing but love us into existence and bless us abundantly with each new day. Sin says to God, “Sure, you may be good, but I think I can find more goodness elsewhere.” Failing to do good separates us from God, from nature (in that we were created good), and from each other. What is the only thing that can rectify this separation? The grace of confession.