When it's Good to Keep Secrets and When to Disclose Truth

  • By Lindsay Tsang
  • 27 Mar, 2017

Are your secrets guilt driven?

When it's Good to Keep Secrets and When to Disclose Truth

“Tell me honestly, did you watch porn?”

The man silently fidgets and gives a sheepish barely audible answer.

It is best to have a 100% honesty policy, isn’t it?

The answer is not completely straightforward. Here are some ideas of when secrets are good, and when secrets are not.

When Secrets Are Good

Not all secrets are bad! Some secrets enhance your self-identity and relationships. Let’s take the classic story, The Secret Garden. Mary Lennox, unloved by her parents, is spoiled by the servants who do her bidding.

What turned things around for her is when she finds a secret garden. She tends to it, delights in it, and starts coming alive. Now Mary has something special that is hers alone. Do you have your own secret garden? Something that makes you come alive that you would share only with those you care for? In the case of Mary Lennox, this well-kept secret is a boundary of identity. It became a secret that holds a piece of who she really is.

As the story unfolds, she meets another sickly spoiled child named Colin. She invites him to her secret garden and they both begin to heal and grow with their shared secret. Have you experienced that before? When there’s a secret handshake or a shared story that belongs only to you and a friend?

This is what makes some secrets good. It is when there is something that belongs in the category of sacred. Special, not just for anyone. These are worthwhile secrets to hold.

When Secrets Are Bad

There are secrets definitely not worth keeping. There are many examples but I’ll share two indications to stop holding the secret in.

Is the secret destroying intimacy? A secret like porn, for example, will put a wedge between you and your partner. To hide a guilty secret, you need to lie. Spouses are often more hurt by the lie than the act itself. If secrets are destroying intimacy, then it is time to consider if it is truly worthwhile.

When secrets start distorting your own view of truth. If you hold a guilty secret for too long; you will not only start lying to others but start lying to themselves too. Have you ever told yourself any of these lines?

“This is harmless; my secret won’t hurt anyone.”

“If I told him/her, it will only make things worse. They’re better off not knowing.”

Reality will catch up to our fantasies. So we have a choice, do we bring ourselves forward or do we let reality catch us off guard?

How to disclose

If you are riddled with guilt, it is time to get other people involved. Sometimes, secrets are meant to stay what they are. Often, secrets are stemmed in self-preservation. They could cause unhealthy relationships or state of minds.

Consider who you disclose to. Is this a safe person? Do they promise not to judge you and to keep confidentiality with you?

Use a line like this, “I have something that is weighing on me. If I tell you, would you be on my team? I need to know that you’ll give me a safe place to be me.”

What if the person I need to disclose to is the one I’ve hurt/wronged?

This is tough. But I’ll tell you from personal experience the freedom I’ve found in this.

My wife and I keep up a weekly “check-in” with one another to share the struggles we’ve had through the week. Some of these struggles could include hurtful behaviour towards one another. But as we created a safe place for us, we only found our intimacy warmer.

We had to navigate the awkwardness of beginning this conversation, but the fruit of it is trust. There’s way more freedom in trust than in guilt.

Is this something you’re able to do? Comment below and let me know your stories of relief when you finally shared your secret!

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