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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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October 30, 2007

Got a secret?

They say confession is good for the soul. Frank Warren seems to agree. Strangers send him postcards—about 1,000 a week—that share their secrets and confess their sins. He posts some on the Web and has compiled four anthologies, including A Lifetime of Secrets.

In addition to spilling sexual taboos, naughty habits or crimes, Warren said senders are showing a more soulful side. He told the Chicago Tribune: “A lot of these voices ... are expressing feelings, hopes, desires, fears about the afterlife, about their spirituality, about their relationship with God, all in ways that are not necessarily represented by institutions in a public way.”

While the sender’s motives vary (entertainment, shock value, etc.), Warren said some postcards convey a search for more: “Perhaps they’re searching for a certain degree of grace or a deeper sense of authenticity or self-understanding or self-acceptance.”

Warren is helped too: “Through this journey I’ve been on I feel I’ve developed a new kind of faith. Seeing 175,000 secrets from people helps me realize that each one of us has a secret that would break my heart if we knew what it was. If we realized that, there would be more understanding, compassion and peace in the world.”

A cynic could say Warren has found the secret to making a profit. Or has he unlocked a way to bring “more understanding, compassion and peace in the world”? Is confession to a stranger really good for the soul?

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