Confession is as Jewish as the Bible is (i.e., very Jewish).

“If a man or woman commits any sins against another man . . . they should confess the sin they committed [before G‑d].”—The Bible

One thing that has always puzzled me about vidui (Jewish confession) is that this final step in the process of repentance/return teshuvah—seems meaningless.

What’s the point of vocalizing our thoughts of remorse to G‑d? Aren’t the thoughts and feelings deep within the recesses of our minds and hearts revealed before G‑d like an open book?

But what if the purpose of confession is not for G‑d’s sake, but for our own?

There are three ways to understand the function of Jewish confession.

#1 The first is that it serves merely as a declaration of one’s feelings of repentance. We take our thoughts more seriously when they are spoken. They have been allowed entry into oral territory, where they are less retractable.

#2 The second way to understand the function of confession/vidui is that it serves not only to reveal or reinforce our inner thoughts, but to intensify them; for when spoken, human emotions run faster and thicker.

(It is this fact that underlies a revolutionary tip for anger management: Keep silent. The spoken word adds fuels to the fire. Out of sound is out of heart.)

#3 The third perspective is most intriguing.

Confession/ vidui doesn’t just serve to express or intensify existent thoughts, but it is also a means of creating feelings of remorse when they are sadly nonexistent.

It struck me that no matter how critical or “objective” we try to be of ourselves, we are blinded by self-love. In other words, we go about life viewing ourselves from the inside. Through speaking out our shortcomings in confession/vidui, however, we step into the mind (and ears) of an outsider, and only then does the severity and foolishness of our deeds hit us like a ton of bricks.

It’s like looking back at a hurtful text we sent someone a week earlier in the heat of an angry exchange. It doesn’t make sense anymore. It was harsh, petty and pointless. It’s like viewing a video of ourselves acting distastefully.

And that’s the point of Jewish confession. It’s not spoken for G‑d to hear, and it’s not spoken to the next person for him to absolve; it is, rather, an acknowledgement to ourselves about ourselves—that sadly we lost our way. But luckily, with G‑d’s help, we merited a moment of clarity just in time.