I once ran across a website posting short video clips of individuals revealing some deep secret. Some of these secrets were funny (developing a fake friend on a social networking site to make an ex girlfriend jealous), some were eye-brow raising (eating contents of nose), and some were downright painful (revealing affairs, addictions, sexual abuse and the like).
Keeping a secret (your own or someone else’s) requires that you carry a burden. You know something and can’t share it. You can’t talk about it. You might like to, but the consequences seem dire if you share it. You might lose a friend. You might lose your reputation. You might lose your security.
As someone who listens to secrets for a living I’ve a few observations about the secrets people hold:
1. Even in the confidential setting of counseling, it is near impossible to lay down the burden of some secrets. These secrets are covered in shame. Sexual abuse; Unwanted sexual thoughts and feelings; addictions.
2. Secrets shape our identity in some powerful ways–maybe even more than known truths.
3. The longer a secret is kept, the harder it is to tell, or the harder it is to tell truthfully. Time has a way of distorting facts and feelings in some cases. Similarly, we make lots of excuses for why we keep secrets. Some excuses are cover for shame (e.g., “It would hurt her to know that I…”).
4. When someone has a guilty secret (e.g., an affair), they often tell it to finally throw off the burden of guilt. So, when they tell their spouse, they often feel better right away. Unfortunately, the spouse does NOT feel better. In these cases I find the guilty spouse has a hard time relating to the new burden they’ve just loaded on to their mate. They feel free and wish their spouse would now also feel free too. It is always good for the guilty spouse to question why they wish to confess. Is it to promote truth and long-term possibility of healing? Then, they should tell (carefully). If it is to just be relieved of their guilt, then such a confession may not lead to repentance and healing.
5. Even little secrets kept from a loved one can hurt when revealed. If you lie to me about how many Easter eggs you ate on Sunday, maybe you are lying to me about more weighty matters.