What’s in a Secret?

Why do we keep secrets? Who are we protecting from the truth? Are we protecting others or ourselves or both? We are told to tell the truth when we are children. We are told that lying is bad and honesty is pure, but as we grow up these perceptions seem to change. The truth often becomes dangerous territory. The truth ruins reputations. The truth becomes something to be feared.

I get that sometimes the truth hurts. Reality bites, right? But by repressing the truth in ourselves are we really doing more good than harm? I believe it was Jesus who said “the truth shall set you free.” That’s pretty powerful coming from Jesus. So why do we still feel that in so many cases it is better to hold it in? What are we gaining? Superficial pride?

I am reading a book right now by an author named Kate Holden. The book, In My Skin, is a memoir about Holden’s time as a heroin addict and a prostitute. She has written it under her real name, and has written the truth according to memory, without shame. In the preface to her book, she talks about secrets, and how we all have them: “I do not like to judge others. I know now that everyone has their secrets. I write mine down,” she writes. I, like Holden, have chosen to write my secrets down and publish them. I know that not everybody’s thrilled with this, but they are my secrets and my confessions, and I am the one who decides what to do with them. If some relationships fall by the wayside because the truth has hurt them too much, then those are not the kind of relationships I want in my life. I am still struggling though, with the idea of truth and secrets, good and evil, right and wrong. I guess there is no correct answer; only the answer in our hearts.

I will admit, I have been going through some major anxiety these past few days, and I even called the crisis hotline on Friday because I felt so guilty about having upset some family members through the sharing of my truth that I was scared I might do something irreversible to end the pain that I was feeling. But when I am able to take my emotions out of it, even for a minute, my logic and good sense reaffirms me that what I am doing through the sharing of my story is right. It is good, and not evil. I don’t care if airing one’s dirty laundry isn’t socially acceptable on Earth, sharing the truth is a part of good in the Universe, and that’s what matters most.

I’m working through this right now, and I feel like I have the devil and angel on my shoulders, whispering conflicting opinions in my ears all day and night. My mind is a battlefield. There is no time for rest, and nowhere to escape to. It’s hard to move forward when you are stuck in a state of war with yourself, but I have faith that this is a necessary part of the process. It’s painful and very real, but it makes me feel human, and this is a beautiful thing.

I’ve been watching a lot of Oprah network stuff lately. I, like so many, really look up to her and admire her strength. There is a show on this network called The Life Story Project which follows the hosts as they hit the streets to find real people to interview about their life stories in relation to the weekly topic, which could be anything from life regrets to forgiveness and betrayal. This past weekend they focused on the notion of secrets, lies and confessions in our society, and interviewed several people about their own experiences with this subject matter. There were mixed reviews. Some interviewees said it was best to share your secrets while others said it was better to keep them bottled up inside. But what struck me most was the narrator’s conclusion to the episode: 

“Our experiences with secrets and lies can either define who we are, if we let them, or we can choose to disclose them and free ourselves from the weight. And as we continue to struggle with the notion of full disclosure and wrestle with the truth, life goes on. One thing for sure is that the very existence of secrets, lies and confessions only makes us more human.”


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