There are at least two kinds of secret keeping.
For the purpose of this blog, the first kind is keeping the secrets entrusted to you by others. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another; for love covers a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8 This secrecy applies to the hidden thing someone has told me about themself, not my own secret. Telling someone else’s story isn’t my job. It’s a lack of love.
I have several choices when someone tells me a secret of theirs. I can stuff it in my brain closet and forget about it. Another possibility might be to discuss with them their motives for secrecy. Do they have to do with deception or discretion? Secrecy can be a tool of Satan when it keeps justice from being done. Deception is the kind of secrecy that hides the truth to get what we want. Discretion is telling the truth at the right time, and to the right person. Even when the two of you have thought these things over about the truth they are hiding, their secret is theirs to tell, or not. To respect them is to allow them the choice.
The second way we deal with embarrassing or hurtful truth is to keep our own secrets.
“Don’t air your dirty laundry.”
Common sense, right? However, let me suggest that common sense doesn’t always make sense. I understand that we worry that if our secret gets out there will be people who take advantage or twist the secret to make us look bad to the world, or hurt the people we love. I lived twenty years of my life in secrecy that I thought protected others.
We need a disclaimer here. There is a difference between complete secrecy and discretion. If I walk up to someone I don’t know and tell them my deepest secret, A. They’ll think I’m nuts, B. There’s no reason to be so forthcoming in a relationship that doesn’t even exist yet. This should be a no brainer. Figuring out that I get to know the person before I share myself is the beginning of discretion. If I listen to people, get to know them, and then share myself and a secret or two in areas where they struggle and I might help them heal, that’s discretion. But if I get to know them, trust them, but share nothing, that may be self-protective secrecy.
Keeping our own secrets may be pretending not to be who we really are, and sometimes it’s pretending to be sinless. Not only that, it avoids bearing one another’s burdens. Why? Because if I think I’m alone in my sin, that no one has ever messed up as badly as I have, or been as totally affected by wrong as I have, I’m not likely to tell anyone about my experiences. If no one knows what I’ve dealt with, how can they bear my burden? How can I bear theirs? In this situation, I follow God in faltering steps because I’m spending my strength covering up, and healing never happens. On the other hand, if someone whose been through what I’m going through keeps quiet, I’ll never realize they might have answers.
Telling my own story is encouraged in Scripture. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16
When I hear someone say they have struggled in an area in which I also struggle, the thought crosses my mind that they may know something that will help me find truth and healing. I’m freed to reveal my experience to them and find out whether they know something I need to know. And perhaps whether I know something they need to know.
So, who do I tell my secrets? The ones who struggle in the same areas I do. Without telling my secrets, there’s no way for me to know who those people are. That’s the strongest argument for transparency I can think of. Others who should hear my secrets are people who might be affected adversely if I keep the secret.
Though people can take advantage of knowing our secrets, it doesn’t matter. We belong to God, He loves us, and what others think of us or say about us is of no consequence. They are just people, like us. Satan loves closed mouths and hidden truths because they keep justice from being done, and all of us living in the dark. It’ll take courage, but God’s got plenty of that. Ask Him for some.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourelves are comforted by God.” (II Cor. 1:3 NAS)