What Have You Done?
And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. Genesis 4:10
When our dog was a puppy, he chewed on a couple of shoes, but he’s always been sensitive to reprimand and he’s been easy to train, so since then he’s not been destructive with our stuff . . . Except for my favorite hat. We came home once to find my favorite hat destroyed. I turned straight to the dog. What did you do? I said it in a tone that made his head drop as he looked up at me remorsefully. He knew what he’d done, and he was conscience-stricken. And that was that. If, however, our dog would have avoided me, held his head high, and avoided eye contact, I would have known that he was unrepentant and I would have had to hold the hat in front of him, forcing him to face what he’d done. When I asked the dog, What have you done? I wasn’t seeking information. I knew what he’d done. I was seeking a confession. I wanted to know that he was remorseful. Penitence was the necessary first step to a change in his behavior. He’s never chewed up anything since.
I’ve been in his position. When I was first confronted about my opioid diversion back in 2014, those tasked with addressing my problem asked the same question. What have you done? They knew what I’d done, but they needed to know my response. At first, I denied it. I thought about fighting the accusations. Within a few hours though, I realized the only way out was to admit what I’d done and begin to address the consequences. This came as a relief to those who confronted me, because it made everything a lot easier. Confession didn’t right all wrongs. I still had a mountain of consequences to face, but admittance was the necessary first step in beginning to recover from my addiction.
That’s the tone I hear from God in today’s passage when he asked Cain, What have you done? God knew Cain had killed Abel. He wasn’t seeking information. He was seeking Cain’s response, which unfortunately was dishonesty and defiance. Cain had committed to evil and wasn’t about to repent, which meant Cain wasn’t ready to change or recover from his sin.
This is why the first step of AA’s 12 steps is to admit our problem. Most of us, like Cain, have denied our failures but we’ve also realized defiance solves nothing. What have you done? Confession doesn’t fix everything, but it’s a necessary first step. We cannot begin to heal until we admit our problem – to self, to others, and to God.