top of page

Unveiling the Dark Emotional Triad: Finding Redemption in Confession and Absolution

I’ve recently been processing why I am the way I am when I am not living in my baptismal identity in Christ. 

I think it largely has to do with the dark emotional triad of shame, fear, and control. Individually, each one of these emotions are destructive. Put together, they are an emotional cocktail that kills—intoxicates our view of God, self, and others. 

Sidenote: This is likely nowhere close to an “original thought.” There are many psychologists and social scientists who have probably made this connection. Nonetheless, I’ve not read it succinctly. So here it goes. Help me, Holy Spirit. 


Shame is our origin emotion as a result of sin. It is our “garden-and-fruit” sin. Our eyes are open. We realize we’re naked, exposed, vulnerable, responsible, guilty, rebellious, sinners. We must hide. We put on the mask. We “fake it 'til we make it.” The problem is we don’t make it. We can’t. Not on our own. All we can do is hide from God and others, hoping beyond hope that we won’t be exposed. This hiding hurts our soul. 

Shame is intimately connected to leadership insecurity. Shame leads us to pridefully compare and justify our ministries as more righteous, more innovative, more confessional, more missional. More. We want to be more, and when we fail, shame is the result. 


Fear is intimately connected to shame. Fear leads us to run, or fight, or completely shut down. Fear narrows our options. Fear screams for us to alleviate the discomfort by whatever means possible. Fear cripples relationships. Fear is toxic. 

Satan has a heyday with fear in the local church. He whispers and sometimes screams, “Don’t risk it. You’re going to fail. You are a failure. Protect yourself and your church and ministry at all costs. Don’t associate with them. You’ll be tainted, labeled, manipulated, scarred. You have limited options. Good luck.” Satan is such a jerk. 


Control is intimately connected to pride. Control leads us to have a death grip on life, not realizing it is our soul we’re choking, starving, killing. Humans are so good at self-sabotage. Control leads us to try to do everything, be everything to everyone, all the time. Control makes us feel like God. It is quite evident we’re not. 

Control is certainly found in the local church. Small factions controlling their siloed ministry. Parking lot meetings after the meeting filled with gossip. Pastors are guilty of controlling all of the doing of ministry. Or in some churches lay leaders, especially who have served and given much over the years, hold control for themselves, keeping the voice of the pastor from exerting much control. Trust slips through control hungry fingers. 

The mission of God to get all of His kids back is rarely the topic of conversation. Shame, fear, and control win the day. 

How does the dark triad of these three emotions intersect? Simply—

We sin. 

What is the result? 

Shame leads us to hide. 


We’re fearful of the consequences. 


We’re not as in control as we’d like to pretend we are. 

What is the solution?  Simply—

Confession and absolution. 

Do not hide in shame. Confess what you’ve done or failed to do. 

Do not fight, flee, or freeze in fear. Hear the Gospel. You’re forgiven. 

Do not control what only God can control. He rules—His will and His people. They are His. You are His. You’re under His control. Believe it. Live it. 

I pray that leaders at every level in the LCMS identity when the dark triad of emotions is at work within them and around them. The solution is simple. Confession and absolution because of the finished work of Christ. 

Bring the dark emotional triad into the light of the risen Jesus. 


101 views1 comment

1 comentário

Tim: Excellent and insightful discussion. Since I turned 70, I have been resolved NOT to live in shame, or in competition with anyone. Lots of Confession & Absolution, though I miss my Society of the Holy Trinity days when we heard confessions and pronounced absolution to each other quarterly. I cherished that a lot and miss it.

bottom of page