“Should I tell him?” “Dang, it will hurt her feelings if I betrayed her trust.” “What will everyone think of me?” “Will I lose my job?” “I just can’t keep it in any longer!”So many catastrophic thoughts fill our minds when we contemplate sharing a personal secret publically. We all have secrets that range on a continuum of shallow and simple to deep and dark. The urge to keep something private is part of human nature. But to what degree can keeping secrets hurt us or others? Should we be trusted to keep secrets? How do we express our secrets with peace and acceptance when the honest moment comes?
WHY DO WE KEEP SECRETS?
Fear of embarrassment, social rejection, the thought of being misunderstood, thinking how people will perceive them afterwards, the thought of losing friendships, family ties, jobs and opportunities…so many reasons lie behind why we keep secrets.
The nature of certain secrets can give us more insight on why we keep them. We don’t want to reveal our financial status because if we make little, we feel that folks will think less of us. But if our banks are hefty, we know some people will use us for their personal gain and “borrow” money without ever paying it back.
We don’t want to reveal that we may have made poor grades in school because we want to be regarded as intelligent. In the same way, if we were “A” students then we wouldn’t want others to perceive us as “nerdy” or “know-it-alls” either.
We don’t want the public to know that we’re struggling in our jobs or our businesses because we want to project to the world that we are successful.
We also hide things such as chronic illnesses, religious affiliation, political views, and mental health issues.
HEALTHY OR HARMFUL?
It’s normal to keep secrets, whether you’re keeping your own secret, or if a friend or relative trusts you with their secret. The deeper the secret is the more weight is carried on you as you keep it in. Keeping secrets is hardly ever healthy. It may protect us from being hurt in some cases, but keeping secrets in for too long will end up hurting us. A closed mouth never gets fed. If your secret is something as serious as a mental illness, physical illness, or personal crisis, you are keeping yourself from being delivered from that bondage by keeping that secret to yourself. Keeping yourself closed out in such a way will worsen your situation. The mere thought of letting secrets out is daunting, but once it happens, your burdens will be released, little by little.
KEEP IT IN OR LET IT OUT?
Write it down. Keeping a secret inside can make one feel uneasy to the point of sickness. You can still let out a secret without anyone knowing it just yet. Writing down anything emotionally charged is cathartic and will help us feel less burdened. If you have a secret that you’re just itching to let out, you can begin by writing it down in a journal or a private note pad and keep it with your personal items. Writing anything down is the first step in releasing anything before you share it with anyone. This will get you more comfortable with sharing your secret and seeing it in writing will also help you face the reality of it more. (Special tip: if you keep a journal, don’t let anyone know you have one so they don’t become curious as to what you may be hiding.)
Who do you trust? If you’d rather share your secret verbally, do it with someone you can speak to in confidence; someone you know can keep something to themselves until you’re ready to share it openly. Whether this confidante is your mother, your best friend, or your spouse, talking about it will alleviate the stress of keeping it in. You will likely receive advice from this person. You will become more relatable and admirable after being transparent with others. Too often, especially in the social media era, we want to put on the cloak of perfection and hide our faults all because of the fear of condescending looks. The truth is that people are waiting for us to show humanity so they can feel more connected to us.