The Relief of Honesty: A response to Psalm 32

Arriving at psalm 32, we come to one of the great ‘penitential psalms’, a group of psalms  often used in the season of Lent, or at anytime to express personal confession and contrition. But that doesn’t make it a gloomy psalm, it’s a beautiful psalm because in the same breath that it calls for confession, it proclaims forgiveness. It opens with a ‘Beatus’, a beatitude, a blessing:

  1. BLESSED is he whose unrighteousness is forgiven: and whose sin is covered.

The key to this psalm is the observation that hiding and repressing the truth about oneself only makes things worse: ‘For while I held my tongue: my bones consumed away’, and then, after honest confession and forgiveness comes that beautiful line:

Thou art a place to hide me in, thou shalt preserve me from trouble: thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.

My poem in response to this psalm takes a necessarily more personal tone but I hope it can in that sense be personal to all its readers.

As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

XXXII Beati, quorum

In your deep silence and your mystery

You led me to confess and be forgiven.

You gave me the relief of honesty.


How long and bitterly I might have striven

With all the guilt that I could hardly name

How painfully my heart might have been riven


By hidden memories and secret shame

Instead you blessed me with a new beginning

Unbound me from bands and brands of blame


My false accounts of losing or of winning

And called me to come forth like Lazarus

And start my life again, rejoicing, singing


Baptised and born in your mysterious

And all-involving love, a love that lifts,

A love that comforts and embraces us.


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Filed under imagination, Poems

12 responses to “The Relief of Honesty: A response to Psalm 32

  1. lynndmorrissey

    Necessary. Beautiful. Hopeful.

  2. Debbie Taylor

    Too often I ask forgiveness but don’t take the next step of intentionally receiving God’s gift of forgiveness. Your poem reminded me of that this morning. “The relief of honesty” and the relief of accepting the gift of forgiveness go hand in hand.

  3. Evangeline Magee DeMaster

    So very apropos to current memoir writing I’m doing! Thank you!

  4. Evangeline Magee DeMaster

    Thank you.

  5. Karen Looby

    This poem does speak to me personally as I struggle with my relationships with some family members. God is convicting me of my guilt and is uncovering the shame, bitterness and false accounts of which you speak. The love and tenderness of our good Father gives me renewed hope. Your poem also reminds me of Carolyn Arend’s now song, “All Flame”. What encouragement God is sending my way through His faithful ones.
    On another note, I recently read Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Betrothed” and was very glad for you that you never had to choose between your Maggie and your pipes!

    • malcolmguite

      Ah yes that poem the betrothed was based on a true story Kipling saw in a paper so I’m very glad I never had to make that choice

  6. Pingback: Sound A New Song: a response to psalm 33 | Malcolm Guite

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