KEEPER, REVEALER OR LEAKER – WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

Way back during 479 BCE – 465 BCE, there reigned a queen by the name Esther in the Persian Empire. Esther was the Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus, also identified as Xerxes I. The period during which Esther was made queen, was a turbulent phase for the Jews and hence Queen Esther decided to keep her nationality a ‘secret’. In course of time, Queen Esther went on to reveal a ‘secret’ plot made to annihilate Jews in the Kingdom of Susa (in the Persian Empire), to which the king heeded and thus a great disaster was prevented.

This is a slice of history involving keeping and revealing secrets!

When you and I ponder over keeping secrets or revealing them, do we keep the common good in mind or are we self-centered to decide on the basis of what good would it do merely to us? Well, unlike Queen Esther you and I may or may not get to impact history. But, our keeping or revealing secrets may impact the handful of lives surrounding us.

As a Counsellor, I am made privy to a lot of things. And so, as some common practice principles, I have the following lines written in my Counselling Room:

“What you say to me stays with me, except –

If you are trying to harm someone.

If someone is trying to harm you.

If you are trying to harm yourself.”

This instills confidence in people and builds up trust over time.

It is not too hard to spill the beans on others. But, being a confidante is not too easy.

There are times when you are made a party to some sensational information and your stomach is churning within, to let it out.

There are times when you yourself are under too much emotional strain and just cannot bear the load of another ‘secret.’

There are times when you are full to the brim of confidential stories from all around you, and just need to let some out before you can stuff in more.

In all such times, remember to muse on the impact it would create on others.

The wise king Solomon wrote, “…the one who has understanding holds their tongue.  A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

There are times however, when secrets if kept hidden, would do more harm than good. Such times call for the exercise of prudent discretion and courage in divulging closely guarded facts.

The Bible says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

Keeping secrets speak of confidentiality and trustworthiness in a person. Revealing secrets if the situation so demands, speaks of wisdom.

Leaking secrets speaks of betrayal.

IT’S BETWEEN YOU AND ME…

John Gray wrote a book titled ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. It delved into the subject of how different these two species are yet how complimenting. Women are always curious to share and divulge secrets, while Men tend to keep things to themselves. Keeping secrets is a tough task for ladies, especially when they are told ‘it’s between you and me!’

“There are mainly two kinds of secrets: one is not worth keeping, and the other is too good to keep.”

The world is full of secrets. They range from the captivating to the critical to the quirky but sometimes when secrets surface into reality; they can have damaging chain reactions.

So just what makes an individual privy to telling or not telling? Some people divulge classified information just as easy as a glass of water, while others remain such tight-lipped even torturers would be hard-pressed to pry open their mouths.

There are three main reasons why people find it tough to hold onto a secret; Firstly, some people are simply more open than others and share their feelings and thoughts more freely, so it’s more about the person’s temperament than the severity of the secret. As long as the content doesn’t play with professional or social boundaries, there’s not much harm done.

Secondly, and in contradiction, others can’t deal with the pressure confidential information affords them, so are keen to offload it – especially if it’s to do with guilt. For example, if they’ve done something wrong and think telling the other person will help get it off their chest, they share it as soon as they hang up the call. They feel relaxed to not have the added weight of the secret on their chest. But, there is a significant risk of backfiring here.

Last but not the least, some people derive a sense of power by sharing other people’s affairs while they often don’t like other’s talking about them, so it’s almost a way for them to shift focus from their own business, which is kept tightly under wraps. People may even use secrets as a form of social validation; knowing something, that other don’t know helps boost self-esteem, not to mention the attention received on washing someone else’s dirty linen. Typically this strategy is about self-doubt.

Interestingly, our secret-keeping habits can be tracked back to our parents and their inclinations; be it murmuring behind an open palm or maintaining an unbroken silence. It is very learned behaviour, especially if you have parents who don’t talk about their feelings or worry people know certain things will bring shame upon the family. When you’re younger you pick up cues about being allowed to share information; it’s implicit learning.

Another funny thing about secrets is that as they change mouth and ears, they change form. They become more dramatic, more fascinating, more devastating. Each one analyses it as per their vision and they add their version before passing it on. So if by chance they reach the ears of the secret owner, they have multiplied manifolds. For Eg, I saw her coming out of the parlour. I saw her coming out of the parlour with someone. I saw her coming out of the parlour with a man. I saw her coming out of the parlour with her boyfriend. And that is how a perfectly innocent secret turned into a gossip. 

I still remember once I was at my maternal grandmother’s home. My Grandma made Mango Panna(a sweet, salty, spicy and tangy drink made from raw Mango, supposed to beat the heat in summers), but no one ate it, it was kept in the fridge for the night. I slept in the night too, but next morning I saw all looking at me and laughing, giggling with their palms covering their mouths. Upon enquiry, they laughed harder.  I got furious and shouted at them all. Then they revealed that they knew, I drank all the Mango Panna in the night. I was aghast. I hate Mango Panna. I asked each of my cousins and aunts from where they got this info. Each one pointed to another. It all crashed on one of my cousins. I asked her if she saw me drinking the Panna, she told no, she was told by another cousin. She in turns told that she only told she saw me eating Mango. In truth, I had eaten Papaya last night, which seemed so much like a Mango. It was all a big misunderstanding which was passed as a funny secret. I was furious but laughed and I am still teased by the name of Mango Panna. 

You all must be wondering who drank the Mango Panna then? Well, no one. It was there in the fridge, shoved in a corner, but because all were so sure I had it all, they never bothered to look properly. That is the influence of a tangy secret.

It makes me wonder that secrets are such curse. One has to go through severe dilemma while trying to decide what to tell and what to keep with you, whom to tell and whom not to tell, when to tell and when not to tell.

Secrets can be destroying

My father kept his health issues a secret from me and my mum. We came to know about it from his colleagues from Chennai who came for his funeral when he passed. I hate his secret. I wish he had shared this with us and could have been saved. He had his reasons. But his secret cost us big time.

My uncle kept his debts and loans a secret from his family. He told no one that loan sharks were hot on his tail. Today he is in big trouble, it came down to the matter of life and death when he finally revealed it, but it was too late. He was beyond help.

My friend kept it a secret that her In-Laws were torturing her, that she faced domestic violence at her husband’s hands. It was revealed when she landed in a hospital. Her In-Laws tortured her so much that she drank poison. Her parents were devastated that she didn’t confide in them.

A little girl kept it a secret that her father molested her every day. She never told her mum why she was so afraid to be alone with Daddy. She is a kid, yet she kept such a big secret, and when the mother came to know, she divorced her husband. The little girl believed she made her mum sad by telling her secret.

Secrets can be beautiful

Secret lover, clandestine love letters. Love is so much more romantic till it’s a secret.

Secret Admirer, every girl wants a secret admirer.

Secret recipe, we all have one secret recipe, which only we make the best.

Secret ingredients, that one thing that all wanna know but can never guess

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl

CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?

Not me, for sure. All my dear friends know that if they have to make me keep a secret, they have to remind me to keep my mouth shut a hundred times in a day, then probably there is a chance that I won’t blabber anything out.

Having said that, my life itself is an open book, everybody knows almost all about me. In fact, my interest in writing began with my ultimate desire to speak out and to share. I was in a habit of writing my diary since I was 9 or 10. I loved writing my diary and I never really made an attempt to hide the diary from my parents or siblings. Almost all my posts would start with “Dear God” and end with “Thank you God for blessing me”. Those endless letters to God made me really strong and they made me feel that I am sharing myself with an eternal power.

Beyond a point, I got bored of writing to God and stopped writing altogether. That was the time when I had a lot of friends and I used to share a lot with them. But sharing with humans was different, everybody had their own opinions and they would let me know them almost instantly. Sometimes opinions would hurt me because they would be so negative. Slowly and gradually, sharing with friends also lessened.

Then facebook was born and I was so glad that it was so easy to share yourself with the world with just a click. I got famous for my facebook posts. Obviously, my facebook posts were not as open as my letters to God but they were good enough for my need to share. Then I realized that posting on facebook had its own consequences which weren’t very favorable to me.

Right at that point of time, I came across WryteStuff. That was when my passion for writing got a new road. It is after all a desire to share and be understood. It is a desire to share my deepest feelings and thoughts sometimes in a straight forward way and sometimes as a part of a third person’s story. It is said that when a story writer writes a story, he/she has a part him/herself in every character of the story. This is indeed very true. And this makes the real passion of story writing. Designing complicated characters and their thoughts and feelings is nothing but deep and strong thoughts of writer.

As for any secrets left with me, there are a few left in me which I prefer to keep as a secret. Some of them don’t make me feel good, some of them make me feel ashamed of my actions and there are others which are utterly embarrassing. But these need to be with me, for me to be me.

Question is can you really keep a secret? I don’t know how to answer that. I think everybody has different levels of secret keeping set in them. Some of them set it really high. Even basic things about their personal lives is a secret for them, for others this bar is set really low and they don’t mind sharing their past affairs and breakups or anything else for that matter. This bar makes all the difference. I think this bar is set really low for me. Only the incidents that make me feel ashamed or embarrassed are across the line, apart from that everything is shareable. Sometimes, it becomes difficult for me to understand when the bar is set too high for a few people and they trust me with their secret. I have learned to respect that everybody has that bar set somewhere, and it is for their own reasons. I have learned to make sure that I don’t let the cat out for somebody else when it really is none of my business. After all, respecting each other secret bars is one of the most important parts of a relationship. I have learned this after a few tough situations.

GRACE

Have you ever had a secret? One that you had to keep from everyone? One that was surely worse than everyone else’s secrets?

I carried the weight of a secret, and it wore me down. It kept me turning in bed when I desperately needed sleep. It masked the bright flavors of my favorite foods. It dulled the colors of my world.

My secret made me ill. My head throbbed. My bones ached. I wanted–no, I needed to tell, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it aloud. I was too afraid of what people would say. What people would think...

I couldn’t bear the judgment, so I told myself I could handle it.

I’ve already processed through it.

I’ve made it right with God.

It wasn’t completely my fault anyway.

I’ve repented. I won’t be doing anything like that again.

Over time though, the longer I kept my secret, the heavier it became to carry.

The harder I worked to hide it, the more it festered within my heart.

Eventually, one secret lead to more secrets. A little lie as a cover-up. A piece of evidence buried inside the trash can. An excuse about the circles under my eyes.

I lived with my guard up, afraid that someone would learn what I had done, and that what I had done would make me unlovable, unworthy.

I recently went away to a spiritual retreat where a bold and honest pastor spoke to me about the virtue of grace – of unmerited favor.

Unmerited, and unconditional.

He told about his daughter in her troubled teenage years, of the heartache she caused for him and his wife. She ignored her father, scoffed at him for years, yet when she finally came back to him, his arms willingly received her as his spirit soared.

I thought of my own children, the mistakes they make, the dozens of times they goof up every day. And yet, I am willing – no, I am EAGER, to give them grace. To offer another chance. To whisper, I know you’ll do better this time. I forgive you. I believe in you.

Toward the end of the retreat, participants were given the opportunity to confess wrongs to a spiritual leader. This was a new thing to me. I was raised in a Protestant church, and to be honest, I’ve often thought the sacrament of penance, or “confession,” unnecessary. What I did was between God and me. Why did I need a middle man?

Yet when the opportunity came, I was first through the door. I deeply desired to excavate the crud that had accumulated in my soul over nearly two decades.

I looked that pastor in the eyes and whispered to him both the wrong things that had happened to me and the wrong things I, myself, had done.

With tear-brimmed eyes, he whispered back to me, Stacy, I am so sorry those painful things took place, and that you have made choices you now deeply regret. But by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

Forgiven. Just like that. In a moment, a decade’s accumulation of shame disappeared.

I had expected to feel worse after telling another human being what I had done. Instead, I felt as though the Secret, the Worst-of-All-Things, had lost its power and hold on me as soon as I had named it.

I walked in the door of that room crippled with sadness, pain, and regret, and came out clean on the other side.

I’ve never experienced freedom like that before.

***

Now, my husband knows my secret. My best friend knows my secret. And yes, when I told them, they were disappointed. Hurt. But more importantly, they shared in my despair. They cried with me.

They know that my mistake is not a representation of who I am.

And they never, EVER stopped loving me. If anything, they love me more now, as they better understand my heart.

This morning, as I got into my van, I noticed that it was flat-out filthy. We’ve just had a serious thaw in Michigan– almost all the snow and ice melted in a few days, leaving sand, salt, and dust all over the roads and boulevards.

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With my three sons in the back of the van, I headed for the automatic car wash.

They squealed with delight as the high-powered sprayer blasted a layer of salt and dirt from the car…

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They stared, mesmerized, at the soapy lather that bubbled down their windows…

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and watched streams of clean water rinse it all away…

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We trembled in our seats as the dryer blasted away the last drops of water from the windshield.

On the ride home, we marveled at how clean the van was, how clear our view, how “Space Shuttle Harrison” glistened as we zoomed along the highway through our small town.

Sure, we’ll get dirty again. Dust will blow and accumulate on our surfaces. We’ll get all marked up with fingerprints. But it’s nice to know the car wash is there when we need it, ready to strip away the build-up and release us, clean– fresh, out the other side.

Perhaps you have a secret too. Something from long ago, or from yesterday. Something you’re sure would make you unlovable. Unworthy.

Believe me when I say this is a lie.

Unlovable is a lie. Unworthy is a lie.

Secrets are lies that cloud your view. They bury you with dirt from the inside out.

To name a secret is to take away its power over you. To say, I did something, but I don’t want to do it anymore, takes guts, but it puts us on the path to healing and opens the possibility of true freedom.

You don’t have to tell everyone, but tell someone. The same God, the same Mentor, the same Lover or Friend to whom you’ve extended GRACE will likely be eager to return that same GRACE to you.

Secrets are lies, my friends, but grace is real. Grace is truth. And truth is the only path to freedom.

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Stacy Harrison is an amazing writer and a great motivator. She is the owner of an amazing site called: Revisions of Grandeur.  This article is originally posted in her website HERETo know more about her visit her ABOUT page.

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