The big problem with the New Year is that it grows out of the old year. Although, it may give us a “clean break” feel, that feeling stems from an artificial calendar construct, not from a magical metamorphosis that transpires between December 21 and January 1. Anyone who wants a true change has some work to do, and much of that work involves the authenticity of our private life.

First, you must conquer yourself. Then, you are in a much better position to launch a major assault on the issues of life. All of us have a private side to our lives. It is the repository of our sacred beliefs and core values. We secure our true feelings, opinions, likes and dislikes, worries, fears, and impressions within its confines. Unspoken words, plastic smiles, and insincere gestures hide our real thoughts from the world at large. Sometimes we reveal this side of ourselves to others, but we often conceal it for fear we might offend, insult, or otherwise antagonize other people in our lives. We curb many of our true expressions and feelings to live in peace with others.

The restraints we put on our actual thoughts are often laughable. If someone bakes a pie or cooks a dish for us that tastes, bad, we might tell them. “Wow! That didn’t last long in our house!” (Meaning: we took one bite and threw it in the garbage.) If new parents show off their rather homely baby to us, we might saw, “Aw, what a cute little nose!” (Meaning: that’s the only thing about that tiny face I can compliment)! This is the core of comedy, as professional comedians know. We don’t lie outright, but we often conceal our true thoughts. We equivocate, hem, and haw, use euphemisms, change the subject, and squirm when we find ourselves on the hot seat.

What is not so humorous is that our private, secret thoughts have the power to shape, our souls. We will either act in ways that confirm our private thoughts–a behavior we call authenticity–or we act contrary to our true beliefs, a trait known as cognitive dissonance. Whichever path we take, our true selves will eventually become apparent. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). This became the premise for David to write, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:5-6).

Inner truth extrapolates into outward behavior. But even more importantly, inner truth produces inner joy. When you forge a private relationship with God — regardless of cost—you are at peace with your soul. Confession is a big part of integrity with God. The word from the Greek that is translated “confess” is homologeo. Literally, it means “to say the same thing.” It may be further understood as “agree, admit, or acknowledge.” The normal idea conveyed by confession is to agree with an allegation or to admit guilt to authorities. Nathan Hawthorne’s signature work, The Scarlet Letter, reveal the destructive nature of unconfessed sin. Chillingworth, the husband and Dimmesdale, the guilty minister, both harbored wrongdoing in their hearts for years. In the convoluted tale of troubled consciences they both end up emotionally destitute because they discovered the freedom of confession too late to them any good.