On Secrets

This post has been itching to get out for at least a month now.  It started when somebody quoted the old saying, You’re only as sick as your secrets, in one of my men’s meetings.  I’ve certainly heard it several zillion times, but this time I found myself thinking about exactly what it means.   Do only really sick secrets make me really sick?   If my secrets are only a little sick, will I be likewise?  Or do a hundred slightly sick secrets add up to one really sick one, making me really sick?   If I didn’t tell you that I used to shoplift candy bars from the store at the top of Grand Avenue hill when I was ten, would it make me sick?   How about plain old innocent secrets?  Should we have any secrets?

I don’t know about should, but here’s what I’ve found works for me.  Having no secrets … in the sense that everything about me is known by somebody … is crucial to completely accepting myself as I am, warts and all, even as I’m working on the warts.  When I keep a secret, I keep it for a reason … it’s something I wish I hadn’t done or some aspect of myself that I’m ashamed of.   The thing about secrets is that they thrive in the dark … even little ones grow bigger, gathering shame and becoming harder to reveal.  I don’t believe we can reliably uncover our secrets on our own … which is why working the 12 Steps not only includes making a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, they require admitting to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.   As a species, we are capable of denial, self-delusion and rationalization, particularly with respect to our secrets, so we need someone else to help us see ourselves clearly … and accept us as we are.   But does that mean we have to be, as they say, an open book?

I found an interesting thread on AskMen.com on the question, Being an open book … is that a negative or positive quality?  It’s not much of a surprise that most men believed that they’d get taken advantage of it they were an open book, while most women resented the fact that they were emotionally open and their men weren’t.  Welcome to Venus and Mars.  But I’m not talking about emotional openness … I’m talking about revealing who we really are.  And on that count, I’m not convinced women are any more open than men … we just have different ways of concealing ourselves.  In a way, it’s circular … revealing who I really am requires discovering who I am … and discovering who I am happens only if I am willing to share what I’ve found with someone.  I’m not an open book in the sense that everyone … or even anyone … knows everything about me but I’ve shared every aspect of myself with someone.  The self-acceptance that brings means I have less about myself that I feel the need to protect on a daily basis.  Though I’m not an open book, someone has read each of my pages.

Or maybe I’m just getting old and don’t care what people think.

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12 Comments on “On Secrets”

  1. smaaak Says:

    I agree with you. Everyone in my life past and present knows bits and pieces about me of any period, adding up to a sum total. I direct all my energies to evolving as a person from who I am today everyday (yes I do figuratively try to modify my warts !), so I do not want to spare any to keeping and remembering old obsolete secrets. Yes I have also come to the point where I don’t care what other people think, I am really too busy minding my own business. I can actually reply you by another opportunity to postanotherday2011 ! Shall I ? 🙂

    • oldereyes Says:

      Thank you for stopping by … I tried to find your blog but it wasn’t linked to your Gravatar. I would love to have you reply …

      • smaaak Says:

        I’ll make sure to let you know when I do. I want to write a blog as thoughtful as yours ! My blog is newly setup for the Postaday2011. I haven’t yet completed the links and pages yet, not yet very sure what they all are. Will do soon. Your comment is very very significant. I haven’t thought of it in that particular way before so it is very fresh insight to me.

  2. marjulo Says:

    Very thought provoking!

  3. Cheryl P. Says:

    It is thought provoking. I find I share as much as I think the person I am sharing with is up to the task of hearing/dealing/handleing the details. I had some unfortunate (struggling for an appropriate word here) event in my life as a kid and very few people know the facts. I have a sense that people differ greatly on how they process things and how it would affect my future interaction with that person.

    So I am never an open book. Different people get to read some of the pages. Some get to read more pages than others.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I think we have exactly the same approach. I’m fortunate to heave several people that I share most things with, but I also have a childhood event that I only shared with a therapy. Now, a few ore people know about it, which is good. Being selective about who I tell what is essential … it’s just that some of the lesser secrets don’t matter any more.


  4. This post is VERY thought provoking, indeed. I think I have a tendency to share too much. I don’t like keeping secrets, because it makes me feel like I am lying.

    However, there are somethings, I am not very proud of. Things I did when I was MUCH younger and very stupid. And I will probably take those secrets to the grave with me.


  5. It’s funny that you write this. I’ve been thinking about this off and on for a few years; there used to be a couple things that nobody knew about me, mostly because I felt ashamed. Now, there’s probably nothing that someone doesn’t know (though, as you said, there’s probably no one person who knows every single thing). I do think there’s a question of knowing your audience – as Cheryl pointed out: knowing what pieces of information, at what times/points in your relationship, that someone else can handle hearing, processing and knowing. I find that sharing deeply with others cements my relationship with them in an indelible way, and those relationships are the greatest blessings of my life. Thank God I got older and wiser and learned to let them in… and the shame (and, in some cases, fear of rejection) could fade!

    • oldereyes Says:

      As I said to Cheryl, discretion is important … but what I meant is that as I shared more, some of the secrets no longer had any valence, so I found myself letting them be more public. New relationships were formed or deepened as I let myself be more intimate.


  6. […] have been very thoughtful posts that have had me thinking like On Secrets, even the daily questions from WordPress like suicide and euthanasia. To those I was not able to […]


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