The Ties that Bind: The Integrity of Penitence, on the 50th Anniversary of the Massacre at My Lai

my-lai-1024x683By Ken Sehested

Concealment makes the soul a swamp. Confession is how you drain it.

—Charles M. Blow

Except in a few traditional religious settings, penitence is a relatively unknown word. While its more common synonyms—confession, apology, contrition, and repentance—are standard parts of many church liturgies, the images they convey have generally fallen out of favor. There are good reasons why this is so. The primary definition of penance is “voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.” A web search for penance reveals more than a few pictures of people whipping themselves. Continue reading