[This post was originally published as part of my BluebirdFebruary creative nonfiction blog.]
I’ve been thinking a lot about secrets lately. These past few weeks secrets have strained and frayed and unraveled in the closest relationships I have. Nothing revealed is particularly shocking – most secrets aren’t. What makes secrets alluring is their secret nature. And the chief thing secrets reveal are people in hiding.
Growing up, most of us learn to withhold a bit of information, often to protect ourselves or someone we love, often for good reasons. But we also learn pretty quickly that hiding something doesn’t make it go away; it just slips out of view and becomes a thing we have to carry by ourselves. It feels safer to be secretive than to be insecure or afraid. Over time though, managing all that stuff turns us inward, drawing attention over and over to the very places in ourselves we’d rather not focus. And in that hall of mirrors, secrets have a way of growing powerful: demanding emotional energy, requiring better hiding places, threatening to expose themselves, and reflecting only the distorted parts of our character. It can be lonely, as Frank Warren reveals at PostSecret.
Here’s the thing about secrets: they want to be told. Some are like mountain rivers, rushing down hills, exploding through dams, and crushing everything in their way. Some are like old meandering streams, quietly rolling along well-worn paths. But like all water in its natural state, all secrets move in the same direction. Secrets want to be known. Fundamentally this is because people want to be known.
And that’s the uncomfortable truth about subduing secrets: you have to make yourself known. It’s the most natural thing and the most terrifying thing, and it requires a kind of vulnerability that isn’t celebrated much. I have been in seasons myself where I’ve chosen patterns of dishonesty and secretiveness. What got me through were a few safe friends who listened when I finally needed to talk about it. There wasn’t any judgement; they simply reminded me who I was, beyond that hall of mirrors. Face to face with that kind of fierce love, over time, the fear melted away and what I was hiding didn’t seem as heavy. And it wasn’t – because I wasn’t carrying it by myself anymore.
You are dearly, dearly loved. Take a running leap and be known.