Generation Life is a powerful way to fight for real change in the world, but it’s also a great time to reflect on ways in which we can change and improve ourselves. As you go out to fight for what’s right, you may find that this is the perfect time to seek out your own healing in and renewal in a beautiful way: in the Sacrament of Confession.

Now, for some (myself included), the idea of Confession is initially more than a little scary. Reconciliation requires us to face our fears, failures, and deepest regrets, and doing so is far from easy. Still, as frightening as the idea of Confession may appear, it really is beautiful, and ultimately not at all as terrifying as it may sound. By admitting our failures before God, we allow Him to take those very sins away, and we become renewed in a way that is only possible with the His help. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a powerful one. I can guarantee that no excuse you may have for avoiding confession can outweigh the tremendous grace and power of God’s healing Sacrament. Let’s take a look at some of the usual reasons why we tend to avoid Confession and why all of these reasons are actually pretty flimsy.

1. I don’t want the priest to know everything I’ve done.

Let’s start by making one thing clear–the priest is not there to judge you. When it comes down to it, Confession isn’t even about talking to the priest—it’s about talking to Christ, confessing your sins to Him and letting God work His power of forgiveness through the priest in persona Christi.

Don’t forget that priests hear tons of confessions throughout their lives — they’ve heard it all and they’ve heard so much that they really don’t even have time to remember who confessed what. Trust me, your sins aren’t going to give the priest a heart attack. Priests are humans too, and they’ve experienced the struggles of sin themselves. In the end, however, the priest is simply the minister: he’s not a judge and he’s not someone you need to fear or impress. He is simply there to bring God’s healing power of forgiveness to you, and that is exactly what he will do.

2. I don’t want my friends to judge me.

Here’s a news flash for you: Nobody is perfect. Every single person needs forgiveness, and nobody is going to judge you for seeking out that healing. Going to Confession isn’t an act of weakness; in fact, it’s a sign of strength. It means you recognize the simple truth that we are broken people in need of healing and that you are striving to become better.

Maybe you have some friends that don’t totally understand the beauty and importance of Confession, but if they are truly good friends, they won’t look down on you or discourage you from something that can only be inherently good. In fact, you may even inspire them to seek out Confession themselves.

Of course, if it makes you feel more comfortable, you can always ask a priest to hear your confession at a separate time, apart from everyone else. Odds are they’d be happy to hear your confession at any time, if they’re free!

3. Is Confession really necessary? God knows I’m sorry, right?

It’s true: God always hears our prayers, and He knows our sorrow for our sins. However, in His beautiful plan for us, God ensures that we are able to receive His graces in a real, tangible way: through the Sacraments. In the Sacrament of Confession, we are able to receive real grace through the power of priests, whose authority comes directly from Jesus Himself. Certainly, we are able to ask for forgiveness from God ourselves, but it is in the Sacraments—and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation most directly—that we receive that forgiveness.

This is especially the case for grave sins, which can only be forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we commit these kinds of sins, we completely cut ourselves off from being able to receive God’s grace. Thankfully, the Sacrament of Confession is always open for us to return to God. This is because, ultimately, we cannot heal ourselves. We can, however, allow ourselves to be healed by God, and we are always able to access this healing in Confession, however far we fall. That’s a gift that we simply cannot take for granted!

4. I don’t know if I’m really sorry for my sins.

We have all been there. We realize that we have done something wrong, but even though we know that we’ve sinned, we just can’t make ourselves feel guilty. Thankfully, a good confession doesn’t depend on feeling “guilty” or feeling sorry “enough.” It doesn’t depend on feelings at all. Feelings are prone to change, but God’s power to forgive is solid, unchanging, and incredibly real.

The graces of Confession aren’t lessened any just because you can’t make yourself feel sorry. All God needs in order to forgive you is your openness to receive the Sacrament. After all, God is a gentleman, and He won’t force a gift on you against your will. In the Sacrament of Confession, we give God consent to work in us and purify us, and when He does, a flood of graces pours down and floods our souls. Whether we feel it or not, our sins are forgiven.

5. I haven’t been to confession in, like, forever. I don’t even think I remember what to do.

That’s all the more reason to go! Like the prodigal son or the lost sheep, God freaking LOVES those who come back to Him for forgiveness. God isn’t going to scold you for being a latecomer; He’ll welcome you with open arms.

Even if it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten how to confess, that’s totally fine—the priest will be able to walk you through the process. Just tell the priest how long it has been since your last confession (if you can remember), and confess any and all sins that come to mind. Just relax and do your best—that’s all that God ever asks of us.

If you need a refresher on how the Sacrament goes, take a look at this article that goes through some of the steps for an awesome confession. If you’re not sure what exactly you should confess, look up an examination of conscience–the USCCB website has plenty of excellent examinations!

All in all, whatever reservations you may have for receiving Reconciliation, the gifts of the Sacrament are more than worth it. Once you’ve received absolution from the priest, you’re completely forgiven. Your soul becomes just as pure as it was on the day of your Baptism—no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, all the wounds of your past are totally wiped clean, as if they never happened at all. That alone, I think, is a powerful enough reason to overcome any fears or doubts we might have about going to Confession.