28 Feb All is forgiven
I was raised as a Catholic but sadly I’m lapsed (I confess). Confession is a central part of religious observance in the Catholic faith and offers both redemption and crucially an opportunity for people to unburden themselves of their guilty secrets.
The procedure for the uninitiated is as follows
Periodically (in my case every forty years whether I need it or not) the penitent attends church and enters what resembles a wooden cupboard. Inside is a seat and a (not quite) opaque grille in the wall.
On the other side of the grille is the silhouetted anonymous figure of the priest. You tell the priest your sins, there’s some discussion and the priest assigns you a penance which comprises a series of prayers which, on leaving the Confessional, you recite to seek salvation from God.
The content and number of prayers is absolutely immaterial, this is about the belief that your soul can be saved and your remorse and repentance. On the face of it, it’s a pretty good deal.
I’m not about to mock or deride this process because the act of confession actually demonstrates a central tenet of Christian faith. That no matter how sinful an individual has been their soul is never beyond salvation provided they genuinely regret their sins and seek redemption.
Similarities with safe and unsafe acts
In SUSA it’s not what you see that’s important, it’s what you discuss. You can walk around all day in most workplaces and see only safe activity (which you reinforce through praise). Generally the unsafe acts are not seen but are drawn out by allowing people to confess their misdemeanours to the SUSA coach.
This is where the parallels start.
The confessional is ostensibly anonymous, yes you know who is on the other side of the screen and any priest who is familiar with his flock will have a pretty good idea of who’s sitting on your side. This isn’t the point, the point is trust.
The penitent has faith that his sins will go no further and will never be alluded to again no matter how heinous they might be (see Montgomery Clift in I confess).
For SUSA to work the bargain has to be the same.
People will only reveal their unsafe acts if they’re confident that what they say won’t rebound on them personally and will not drop someone in it.
Of course the SUSA coach can’t offer absolution but it does allow someone to unburden themselves and tell someone how it really is. The nature of confession in SUSA is often oblique and this means SUSA coaches have to listen. Examples of this include:
“Well I always follow procedure on this job” – this individual is screaming out for you to ask “so what do other people sometimes do?”
“If we aren’t in a rush then I do it this way” – you’ve simply got to ask “what do you do when you are in a rush then?”
“Usually I do it this way” – “Err… What happens ‘unusually’?”
Or an even more obvious invitation to reveal unsafe activity:
“You should see what I’m going to do next!” – At this point the SUSA coach has two options: “I’d love to but I’m very busy” and walk away or do the right thing and find out what horrendous course of action is being proposed.
Your learning points
- SUSA coaches have to demonstrate impeccable integrity
- The SUSA process must be seen as trustworthy
- SUSA is rarely about what is seen but more about what is revealed by discussion
- SUSA coaches must listen hard for penitents who just need to be asked one more question to confess
Here endeth the lesson. But I leave you with a further question. Does coveting Lorraine Kelly constitute a sin?