I am delighted when close friends tell me secrets that they are free to tell. It speaks of trust, which is the root of love.
Other people, strangers, will tell me things.
I am a minister. I tell people things when I need to; I ask people things when I need to; I listen to things when I need to. When them telling me this does not involve me in any way, I listen gravely, say what is needed, and often --
--well, I would say "never think of it again", but that is wrong. I do think of it, when I am feeling quiet and sober, or when reflecting on my duties, or the nature of humans. It is not forgotten, but their words are weightless to me. Not massless, for they carry impact, but merely bearing them does not cause me strain, so weightless. Odd, that the clergy is like free-fall. It would be disrespect to forget some of these things, and yet they do not weigh me; I need not jettison them or share the burden, often.
They are things that must be said by them, must be shared lest they explode or grow too exhausted bearing all that weight alone. Secrets that would scatter all over with them are contained, in me; terrible truths do not drag me down, and correspondingly I do not judge. The truest confessions are to strangers, from strangers. A man told me a terrible thing, once. If a friend had gossiped this to me, about another, or about themself, I would have been properly shocked/horrified, based on my appropriate cultural programming. He told me this thing, and I sat in sober silence, and failed to judge him. It was an event that gave him no peace, that tore him badly inside, and I failed to judge him. The responsibility was not given to me to judge him. It was given to me to listen, and to make him examine why he was judging himself, and what his self-inflicted punishment was to be.
I am required, by my office, to take confession from strangers. It requires nothing of me but time to listen, time to stay still, time to truly hear what they have to say. It is too much, sometimes, for one person to know a thing, and to know that they are the only one who knows. One cannot form a reliable picture, with one eye, and unable to move, weighted down by such a thing.* When it is a stranger, there is no danger of me hating them for knowing this about them, after. I can add the confession to my collection of knowledge of what humans are capable of doing, thinking, feeling, believing -- but I am almost incapable of shock, when taking a confession.
I wish I could better describe my state of mind when hearing someone else tell me truths that have no bearing on me. I am become empty and open, willing to receive input, bottomless. It is a feeling of peace, and terrible compassion. I could well have experienced some things that would have brought me to places like that. I cannot judge the things that are painfully admitted from the depths of the soul. It is not my place, not my duty. I cannot.
When someone tells me horrors not as confession, but with glee, with secret satisfaction--! ...There, I am less certain in myself. The purpose of confession is to remove the poison of dark things un-admitted from one's soul, to let some air and light in to neutralize the rot, to bring healing. When someone lets forth from the depths of their heart some foulness, but treasures the seed of that foulness within them still, and will knowingly, delightedly grow more poison within themselves, taking delight in bringing others down, planting poison in others--!
That is not the confession that I was charged to take.
*My mother can see out of only one eye at a time, and cannot drive well at night because of this. It is by multiple perspectives, either through multiple eyes, or an illusion of such created by motion and multiple views of the same scene, that we gain perspective.