Students Publicly 'Confess' Weakness

When a senior student faced a crowd of 75 Friday night to talk about his pornography addiction, he joked, “Hey, I thought this was supposed to be anonymous. Guess not.”

At “Confessions,” an event hosted by the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship (HRCF), three members of the organization divulged parts of their private lives, during which their thoughts or actions had fallen short of their own expectations.

After the anonymous senior, granted anonymity because of the personal nature of his confession, admitted to his ongoing pornography addiction, a freshman member spoke about contemplating suicide, and Chardaie C. Charlemagne ’08 described her long-standing anger toward her father.

Widely distributed advertisements for the event promised to encourage “honesty we’re unaccustomed to on a campus where everyone wears a mask of competence and perfection.”

HRCF staff member and chaplain Christine Y. Teng ’04 likened the students’ confessions to cathartic moments in a Greek tragedy.

“Somehow, it taps into your own story, and you feel as though you’re not alone,” she said.

Without notes or apparent inhibitions, the senior discussed how his pornography addiction had harmed his romantic relationships.

“Basically, I objectified the girls I dated,” he said.

The second speaker, who requested anonymity for this story because of the deeply personal nature of her confession, discussed her thoughts of suicide and attributed her depression to isolation at school and at home. She spoke candidly about how her parents would punish her “to the point where I thought they punished me because they wanted to punish me.”

Charlemagne, the third speaker, told the audience how she “grew up a daddy’s girl, 110 percent,” but then “started realizing my dad wasn’t necessarily the best person to be around, or the best person period.” Her father eventually left Charlemagne and her mother.

At the end of her speech, Charlemagne said that she doesn’t necessarily want to stop hating her dad, which she called “the worst kind of sin.”

HRCF member Anna E. Pritt ’11 said she found the event “really intense and a little awkward—but powerful.”

Near the end of the event, Teng encouraged audience members to take out the small sheets of paper that had been placed under their chairs and write a message. She then asked them to light it on fire in a bowl of water with a candle sticking out of it.

“We’ve been able to step into the light together, haven’t we?” Teng said. “The light isn’t blinding or interrogating—it’s actually this warm glow.”

Reflecting afterward on the event, Charlemagne said, “If I could share this aspect of myself that there’s a darkness and there’s a light in me, and that God works in both and redeems both realms, I wanted both Christians and non-Christians to see that.”

Editor's Note: This story has been edited from its original version. The Crimson is withholding the name of the anonymous senior quoted above at his request.