Dr. Christine Whelan offers some thoughts on a priest who compiled the sins that people confessed and noticed a difference between what men and women confess. Turns out that women confess pride most often and men confess lust (no surprise there!).

But Dr. Whelan smartly points out a good point:

Are women actually more “proud” than men? So women confess pride more often. Might it just be that women are more likely to think that their feelings of pride are sinful, whereas men think their feelings of pride are well-deserved and normal? My previous research has shown that women often downplay their accomplishments, because they feel culturally compelled to present themselves as demure and “sweet” — not strong and successful. This kind of socialization effect will carry over from the classroom to the bar to the confessional; it’s the way we are taught to operate. So a woman who gets an “A” on a test and thinks she’s da bomb for doing so might feel a twinge of guilt about her excitement, whereas a man would not.

Are men confessing to lust because they are conditioned to do so? I give talks to college students about dating and marriage, and you might be surprised that in the Q&A sessions, it’s the guys who do most of the talking. The men are quick to talk about their desire for a late night booty call to be answered in the affirmative, and what a “hook-up” really means in their circle of friends. After one such talk, it occurred to me that many think they are cool, attractive and more masculine for “confessing” those thoughts. I’m not saying that men are more lustful than women; I wonder how much our social conditioning impacts what we think to confess.

An excellent point by the good doctor. But we should add another piece to this.

Were the specific instances mentioned in these confessions actually sins? The correct answer here is that we don’t know.

We should notice that the data indictates that men and women confess these sins but it does not say whether these admissions are actually sins. Some women may in fact confess pride but may simply be downplaying their accomplishments. A good confessor would be able to point out that her behavior in this instance may indeed not be sinful at all.

So while women may confess pride–they indeed may not be committing that sin at all. The same with male confessions of lust which may just be natural feelings of attraction at time that someone interprets too scrupulously. Hopefully, the priests doing the compiling (which is dangerously close to breaking the seal of confession in my opinion) were able to tell the difference.

For more on how to go to confession–especially if it’s been awhile…check out our confession videos:

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