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Kathy Marshack News

Keeping Secrets Creates a Tangled Web

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Keeping secrets is rarely a good idea, yet they are commonplace in society. The major reasons for keeping secrets are (1) to avoid disagreement and confrontation, (2) to protect someone from hurt feelings or even physical distress, (3) fear of punishment or embarrassment for a wrong doing.

Consider a few common excuses for keeping a secret and why you should think otherwise:

"What they don't know won't hurt them."


Why are secrets so bad if they don't hurt anyone? This is usually a rationalization. If you have to keep a secret, then it obviously affects other people. The content of the secret may or may not affect the other person adversely, but the question is, will keeping the secret affect the other person adversely?

"But he or she will get mad at me if I tell them the truth!"


No one likes an argument but it is foolish to think that you can go through life without having disagreements is unrealistic. Therefore it is useful to develop conflict resolution skills, rather than avoid the anger. The excuse that the other person will get mad if you level with him or her is a poor one. First, you never know if he or she will get mad. Second, even if he or she does get mad, the discussion doesn't have to end. Be brave and venture into conflict resolution. Third, the person may have every right to be upset that you withheld information (or lied) that affects his or her life. Think about it. How do you feel when a secret is kept from you, especially if your decisions depend upon the hidden information?

"It would be mean to be honest."


The problem with this excuse is that you have no right to assume responsibility for the other person's life or life decisions. When you keep a secret that affects the life of another, you are robbing them of the opportunity to take responsibility for their own destiny. Essentially it can be disrespectful to keep secrets. You are treating the other person as if they are incompetent to handle the truth. What makes you better able to handle the truth than the other person? Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes it is embarrassing. Sometimes the truth is a powerful leveler without which you would never know you are in over your head.

There may be short-term gain in keeping secrets, but the long-term outcome is usually not worth the risk. Openness in all things is the answer, even if it is embarrassing, anger-provoking, or hurtful. Don't keep secrets, but if you already have, break them. Admit your failure, apologize to those you have lied to and make a promise you can live with. That is, promise to be responsible for your own actions, and allow others access to their own destiny through the truth.



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