By: Nikki Phipps
The truth doesn’t hurt people; secrets hurt people. They are not only a burden to the holder but can have a profound impact on others. Secrets are an unavoidable part of life, and we all have them, good or bad. There are the secrets we keep from our loved ones to spare them pain or discomfort. There are the secrets we keep out of fear that we won’t be liked, loved, or accepted by others. Then there are secrets we keep from ourselves.
Contrary to what most would believe, not all secrets are bad. The word ‘secret’ is often associated with something ‘bad’ simply because most secrets involve a betrayal of some kind, such as an affair, or unbecoming behavior during one’s past. However, there are good secrets too as well as neutral ones. For instance, a good secret would be a surprise party or a secretly planned outing for someone special. A good secret might also include the contents of a gift beneath the Christmas tree or the whereabouts of a child playing hide-and-seek. A neutral secret is simply one in which the information in question has no effect on you in any way. This type of secret is merely none of your business, or anyone else’s, unless the person or persons involved wish it to be. Good secrets are fun secrets. They can make you happy. Good or neutral secrets do not promote bad or worrisome feelings.
There are all types of ‘bad’ secrets. Some secrets deemed as bad involve events from a person’s past that, if made public, could change the way others view him or her, such as a felony conviction or being fired from a job. Some may not be bad in reality, only an embarrassment stemming from what he or she assumes others will think if they knew the secret. This could include a stupid childhood prank gone wrong or simply an embarrassing moment you wish to keep to yourself, such as the day you inadvertently popped yourself between the eyes with a hammer, breaking your nose, as you were trying to fix something beyond your ability. This actually happened…to me. Other bad secrets concern upsetting events that have happened to a person such as being molested, raped, or involved in a domestic violence situation. Many individuals have lived for years with shameful secrets, like these, that never should’ve been theirs to bear in the first place. This type of secret can affect others as well as the one keeping it. Negative secrets that concern dishonesty, like someone lying about something they did or didn’t do, for instance, are the worst secrets, especially when the person asks someone else to keep quiet about it.
There is a difference between privacy and secrets. Things that we choose to keep private are not necessarily bad or things to be ashamed of. They’re just things that are not other people’s business. For example, what you may have done in a previous relationship is not necessarily of any business to or interest of your current one. However, there is never a secret worth keeping if it makes someone feel bad. The truth is secrets have existed throughout time. There are different types of secrets, some that promote pleasurable anticipation, and others that create uneasiness and tension. From government conspiracies to couples having affairs, secrets permeate every level of society. Not all secrets are destructive but telling secrets in the wrong way or at the wrong time can be.
Nearly all people and all families have some kind of secret from the outside world. There may be shared jokes and stories told only within the family circle. There may be those between siblings, and while it may not be acceptable to keep it to themselves, depending on the nature of the secret, in the process of sharing it, they gain a feeling of closeness, a special bond. However, if a dangerous secret, such as drug addiction, physical abuse, or an illness is present within the home, then both family relationships and interactions with the outside world can be deeply affected. Secrets shared with a therapist or religious official can be great way for some people to dissolve shame, find acceptance and empathy, or seek other resources for support and strength. However, sharing secrets only with professionals can negatively affect a marriage and other relevant relationship.
A secret is only a secret as long as it’s never shared with anyone else. The moment you tell someone your secret it’s no longer a secret anymore. No one wants to be judged by what they did yesterday or years before. Secrets that betray your values are never worth keeping, despite the cause.5e2