After reading a blog post by Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz this week, I became aware of a remarkable website, ‘Post Secret’ http://www.postsecret.com/
It was started by a guy named Frank Warren. People share secrets that they have never told anyone before, and he has collected over half a million secrets written on postcards, from all over the world.
Some of the secrets were funny or harmless, a little bit of isolated anarchy – ‘giving it to the man’. Other secrets were really surprises, like ‘secretly’ buying an engagement ring, but this is not really a secret, as it is something positive that will be willingly and joyfully shared with another person at a chosen moment.
Then there are the dark secrets, the ones you hide from others for your own benefit, or to avoid seriously bad repercussions, or because of shame, or because you don’t want someone else to really know who you are or what you are doing.
Secrets are not healthy, and eventually they make people mentally or physically sick, because the inability to share them makes life stressful and very tough, and they are most taxing when they can destroy those closest to us.
When you keep a dark secret from someone close to you, it gives you a power advantage. You know what is going one, you know the facts and they don’t. The worst thing about a dark secret is that the person who is ‘not in the know’ is making choices and decisions based on the lies, misinformation or omission of truth that is necessary to keep the secret intact, so most of the time they will have made the wrong choice, and that will come home to roost.
That’s why when a secret eventually comes out, people get angry, very angry, because they may or would have made different choices if they had known the truth, and sometimes the options they would have chosen are no longer available to them.
Writer Patrick Rothfuss, speaking of the character Teccam in his book, ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ said, “Teccam explains there are two types of secrets: secrets of the mouth and secrets of the heart.
“Most secrets are secrets of the mouth. Gossip shared and small scandals whispered. These secrets long to be let loose upon the world. A secret of the mouth is like a stone in your boot. At first you’re barely aware of it. Then it grows irritating, then intolerable. Secrets of the mouth grow larger the longer you keep them, swelling until they press against your lips. They fight to be let free.
“Secrets of the heart are different. They are private and painful, and we want nothing more than to hide them from the world. They do not swell and press against the mouth. They live in the heart, and the longer they are kept, the heavier they become.
“Teccam claims it is better to have a mouthful of poison than a secret of the heart. Any fool will spit out poison but we hoard these painful treasures. We swallow hard against them every day, forcing them deep inside us. They sit, growing heavier, festering. Given enough time, they cannot help but crush the heart that holds them.”
I kept a secret for someone for 2 years 8 months. Telling me the secret lifted some of their burden, but mine was just beginning. Keeping the secret made me sick to my stomach. It went against who I am, against my belief in honesty and integrity. I ended up having to lie to their family and my family, and as I am not a good liar, every interaction was like walking on eggshells, worried that I was going to slip and say something that gave the game away. I don’t think they truly realised the burden and stress that I felt, because they never acknowledged or thanked me for keeping their secret.
And I know they were not aware of the fallout of my keeping that secret. When people who are close to you finally get told, and know that someone else has known for a long time, they get that ‘last to know’ feeling; that they were not important enough to have been the first to know, and then you become the ‘bad guy’, with the question “Why didn’t you tell us”, ringing in your ears. Pretty much a no-win situation.
The best thing is not to keep a dark secret, because eventually when it comes out, the fact that you kept a secret will be a much bigger and more damaging issue than whatever you were keeping a secret. And if you are keeping a dark secret that you need to share, don’t do it with someone who will have to be drawn into your web of deceit. Better still, just be honest and allow people to make informed choices. In the end, it will be better for everyone involved.