We’ve all heard someone say a secret makes you sick, or your only as sick as your secrets. Our paparazzi culture loves the power of the exposé. Photographers lurk in the bushes and chase people in their cars in an effort to get the scoop or the dirt so they can broadcast on TMZ. Then there are those nosey neighbors looking for their next piece of juicy gossip to share. People love to out other people. Truthfully no one likes feeling exposed.
There is a difference between a right to privacy and keeping a secret. When someone requests privacy they are simply saying “this part of my life is mine and I have a right to keep it to myself.” We can all respect a person’s right to privacy.
Secret’s like a surprise party are obviously fun and okay. But unhealthy examples of secrets allow behavior that is harmful or destructive to yourself or others; affairs, addictions, cutting, hurtful actions against you by someone (rape, molestation) etc. Secrets also include events from the past in which you blame yourself… I once sat with a person who as a child was bike riding on a quiet road with a friend. They had a rope tied between the bikes as they rode along together when out of nowhere a car sped by catching the rope and striking the other child killing him instantly. The pain and regret were so intense it took years to speak about.
Secret keeping is driven by two factors. The first is fear. Many people believe that a secret kept protects them from being judged and rejected by people they love most. This is a very real fear as many times people who unburden themselves ARE rejected.
Fear becomes bondage when the desire to hide the truth drives behavior. In order to protect themselves people will use secret keeping strategies like defensiveness, manipulation, anger, lying, blaming, and even withdraw. The secret keeper has the false belief they can continue to have intimate relationships with those they love by employing protective behavior. They have no idea their behavior is not only self-destructive, it is also destroying the very relationships they long to keep.
Secret keeping is also shame driven. Shame is the silent killer of the secret keeper. Shame is what makes secret keepers sick. Shame is the false belief that their actions define their identity. People sometimes confuse guilt with shame. Guilt says “I did something bad.” On the other hand shame says, “I am bad.” Guilt motivates us to avoid behaviors. Shame paralyzes a person from admitting behaviors. A shame driven person will hide, cover, deflect and conceal-in whatever way possible-their actions.
Consider Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When they disobeyed God the first thing they did was cover and hide. They withdrew from their relationship with God hiding in the garden among the trees. (Genesis 3) As leaders we are called to freedom champions. We help people feel safe enough to come out of hiding and into the light of grace.
Recognizing Secret Keepers
God has given mankind the amazing gift of discernment. Discernment is best described as a feeling combined with the precious gift of the wisdom of God. When we are in relationship with a secret keeper a discerning person might:
- Sense or feel as if a wall is between you.
- Sense or feel uneasy or uncomfortable in conversation.
- Notice the diverting of eyes or other protective body language. Shame may keep a person from looking you in the eye during conversation.
- Sense a feeling of pain or uneasiness coming from the secret keeper.
- Sense or feel confusion swirling around conversation (a symptom of manipulation, double talk, or lies to protect the secret.)
- Notice constant deflection (changing the subject or trying to steer the conversation in another direction)
Don’t be a fault finder – Be a freedom guide!
As ministers of the gospel of grace one of the greatest callings we have is to walk with people as they transition from the old man to the new. In fact ministry can be defined as walking with people in transition. Our calling is to love as Jesus loved… everyone… including secret keepers while balancing the care and protection of the flock entrusted to us.
We love people into the light of grace when we:
- Commit to loving and not judging. We have no idea why someone would try so hard to protect themselves. (Fear, PTSD, past rejection, legal consequences, etc.) Don’t assume the worst.
- Create an environment of safety communicated by our actions and behavior. (Followers of Jesus MUST be people of integrity – we say what we mean and mean what we say). We must be a safe person – I’ll discuss this more in my upcoming teleseminar The Unshakable Leader.
- Pray for wisdom. Be aware of what you feel around people. Don’t dismiss your feelings as judgement. Honestly, I’ve done this many times. Do not confuse discernment for judgement. God has given you the ability the spiritual ability to sense what is happening in the natural. Dismissing this sense can lead to disaster – also part of our upcoming teleseminar The Unshakable Leader.
- Ask questions. Getting to know people requires an investment of time. Asking clarifying questions is not being nosey it is being interested – it is part of developing relationship.
- Don’t push. Plant seeds. If you continue to discern secret keeping behavior don’t push – pray. Pray God would expose anything you need to know in order to protect, guard and guide others. Plant seeds with the secret keeper that communicate safety, love and acceptance. Remember we are also in the bondage breaking business. We can remind people they are accepted in Jesus, and he desires to set them free. And you cannot be set free from what you refuse to admit.
Remember though we want to encourage break through NOT breakdown.
- Do offer to be there. Should they need to talk you can be trusted.
- Set boundaries. Trust is a two way street. We can love from a safe distance. God never asks you to put yourself or others in danger or continue to enable behavior that is self- destructive. Love is not the absence of wisdom or personal safety.
Want to learn more? Be a part of our upcoming e-class The Unshakable Leader. To learn more sign up for our free preview online seminar:
Praying for y’all!