WHY SHARING SECRETS IS RISKY BUSINESS
Have you ever sworn a friend to secrecy and then shared a secret with him or her, only to in short order hear an expanded version of your secret repeated? You discover to your dismay that your secret is out!
Of course, you have. Odds are high you’ve shared a few, too. Why is that?
WHY SECRETS ARE SHARED AND CONFIDENCES ARE BROKEN
Many don’t care why—but they should. Many determine that the trusted confidant just betrayed and just can’t be trusted. And s/he might have, but it’s just as likely the revelation was intended to defend and protect. Here are a few common reasons confidences get broken:
- The secret scares the socks off the person told it. Should s/he do something? Try to intervene in some way to protect or avoid a catastrophe? Knowing the secret and what could happen as a result of it instills fear, and the confidant doesn’t want to be responsible if things go sour. S/he is a friend, and s/he wants his/her friend—namely the person who shared the secret—to be safe and not in danger or in trouble.
That doesn’t make sharing right. It does make the reason for it more human. And there is a distinction between being betrayed and breaking a confidence out of a heartfelt desire to protect and keep you safe. While you might not agree, would prefer your decisions about your life be left to your judgment, you can understand that this person might seek advice from someone s/he trusts to gain reassurance s/he is making the right decision to stay mum or to speak up.
Imagine your secret is that you’re being abused. You tell it to this person. S/he does nothing. Later, you’re murdered by your abuser. So you’re dead and your confidant is choking on regret that s/he didn’t do something to prevent your murder.
The agony of wishing s/he had said something will be merciless. For the rest of his/her life, s/he will live knowing that if s/he had said or done something, you might still be alive. That’s a heavy burden to bear.
- The secret is so juicy that the person simply can’t hold it inside. Either s/he is so happy or sad for you, or so emotionally moved that the temptation is to keep the news to him or herself is more than s/he can manage. Maybe having the inside scoop elevates that person in his/her group-. Makes him/her special because of what s/he knows.
That doesn’t make sharing right and it is betrayal. You don’t elevate yourself at someone else’s expense. You never truly elevate yourself if you tear someone else down to do it.
This person, if a person of character and integrity, will refuse to let you tell him/her your secret.
- The secret is relegated to memory and the confidant simply forgets that it was a secret. We all are told tons of things by tons of people everyday and during the course of a conversation, something we were told earlier—months or even years—can just slip out in conversation. Sometimes we never recall it was said in confidence. Sometimes we recall the moment after we share. Either way, we’ve blown the confidence.
We blew it, we know we blew it, and it is blown. Done is done and while we might regret it, there is absolutely nothing we can do to take the breach back. We must live with it—and live with the fallout from it.
I had an aunt who was a star student at these slips. I adored her, and if I heard her say once, I heard her say a thousand times, “Don’t tell me anything you don’t want repeated. I can’t keep secrets. I just can’t do it.”
Some faulted her for saying that. I considered it admirable that she recognized her limitations and put everyone on advanced notice. She had a reputation for never telling a lie also, so when she said what she said, odds were good it was accurate.
THE SCOOP ON SECRETS
The simple truth is that secrets burn holes in brains and bellies and beg to be shared. The only way to diminish the risks of your secrets being exposed is to keep them to yourself. Even that offers no guarantee, but it is the one thing you can control: access to that information coming from you.
Many pride themselves on never betraying confidences, on keeping their word, and largely honorable people do try to do that. But people make mistakes. They’re human. They don’t always deliberately break their word (though some do, but they’re rarely the type you’d tell a secret in the first place). Slips occur. Not always to betray but sometimes to protect, to guard, to make someone else aware they’re stepping on toes—or are about to step on toes and you’re warning them off. And sometimes we just, bluntly put, mess up.
Breaking confidences never goes down well. It’s rarely appreciated and even more rarely does a simply apology cure the resulting challenges. Understanding why it happened can sometimes lessen the sting, but it doesn’t always. Still everyone must accept responsibility for their actions—ones made deliberately or in error—and one must do what s/he can to rectify problems created.
THE LESSON TO US ALL
The lesson in this risky business is to share what you will knowing the risks. If you’re determined that your secret stay a secret, don’t share it. If you must share it, limit sharing to a priest, minister or spiritual advisor, or a licensed therapist.
© 2015, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is The Marked Bride, Shadow Watchers, Book 1. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact.www.vickihinze.com. Subscribe to Vicki’s Newsletter.