Sunday, November 9, 2014

This Secret Will Self Destruct in 10 Seconds

Secret-keeping, or the inability thereof, is common fodder for sitcom scenarios. One character has something they’re dying to tell, but their best friend/sister/crotchety grandmother is notorious for being unable to keep it to themselves. As the scene unfolds, character #1 invariably tells the juicy tidbit to character #2 and hijinks ensue. 

On an episode of Modern Family, Mitchell found out that his friend Brett had gotten calf implants but didn’t want anyone to know so he could make them believe he’d been working out. “Don’t tell anyone, especially Cam!” Brett admonished Mitchell. Cam is Mitchell’s partner, notorious for blabbing any secret. ("OK, well I didn't know that was my reputation. Maybe that's a secret people have been keeping from me.")  
After much prodding by Cam, Mitchell gives in and spills the beans about Brett’s legs. Cam immediately mass-texts all of their friends…giggle giggle, hijinks, apologies, end scene.

Similarly, every season of every incarnation of the Real Housewives franchise has seen at least one betrayal *dun dun DUN!* because someone violated a confidence. Watching the most recent reunion show, one woman tried to deflect blame off herself by inferring she didn’t have a choice in the matter. “YOU put me in a bad position by making me aware of this information” she told her cast-mate. In essence, she thought she couldn’t be blamed for perpetuating gossip simply because she was given the knowledge of it. Personal accountability be damned. Self control? Never heard of it.

Now, I understand that sometimes you hear things that make you go not only "Hmmm…" but flat out "Whoa!" It’s thrilling to hear something we perceive to be breaking news. We can feel a sense of power telling others what we know about someone else. 

Somewhere around my college years I realized that keeping secrets actually displays MORE power. I guess I’d been betrayed enough that I decided I didn’t want to be like the people who’d hurt me before. Through very concerted effort I kept a couple secrets that came my way. Shortly after seeing an episode of Seinfeld I half-jokingly told my roommate, “You can tell me. I’ll put it in the vault,” a reference to character Elaine’s euphemism for keeping a secret. Since I said I would, I kept my word. With time, I noticed people told me more secrets. It’s not something anyone really mentioned; no one ever told me that they noticed I don’t blab so therefore I was their go-to confession booth. But that’s what happened. 

Retelling secrets gives a short-time high, but keeping secrets earns long-time trust. 

Last evening an entertainment show did a story on everyday people who sell out celebrity secrets for a payout from paparazzi. A waitress might get 100 bucks to tip off a photographer about a starlet barfing in a nightclub. “They’re not my friend. I don’t owe them privacy,” said one club worker who wished to remain anonymous (I bet!). The same show interviewed a limousine driver who had seen his share of ill behavior by celebrities. “I could have sold her out,” he said about one young actress who passed out in the back seat of his vehicle after a night of partying. “But I didn’t. I drove her home. I carried her into her house and made sure she was safe.” And he never told who that was. And he has steady work as a nicely-paid private driver. He won't sell out a client just to make rent.

Again I say, telling secrets gives a short-time high (or payout), but keeping secrets earns long-time trust. 

The truth is, I still get the high from hearing a secret. If there wasn’t something juicy about them it wouldn’t be a big deal to keep quiet. For various reasons people sometimes need to tell their secrets. “Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets” said Swiss author Paul Tournier. Sharing them creates a connection with another person and can unburden the secret-holder. But I have learned to receive them, offer whatever support the confessor needs in that moment, and then lock the secret away in a mental safe deposit box. Processed and sealed up like the Ark of the Covenant was in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, deep in a vast warehouse with countless other sealed crates.

A confession from
Consider the popularity of the website PostSecret. What began as one man's blog forum for people to mail in postcards with a single anonymous secret has grown into multiple published books and an ongoing nationwide speaking tour. Everyone has secrets. Sharing them, even anonymously is therapeutic and allows us to connect with others via our own fears and faults, regardless of whether we actually meet or speak in person.

But don’t mistake that personal connection as permission to do with the information as you wish. Instead, use it to strengthen a bond of human trust. Put it in the vault. At some point the secret may become irrelevant, but the fact that you kept it will not.


  1. You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging journey.

    1. Thank you, Sridhar. I'm always happy to see new names reading my work!

  2. Hey there, I found you via the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

    I have a vault too.. some of the secrets I put in there I have long since forgotten, but the people whose confidences I have kept never have forgotten I am someone they can trust. ;) This is a great post, I am saving it for my halfway links thread which I will post on November 15th. :)

    As part of NaBloPoMo I try to comment on as many participating blogs as I can, and I also add participating blogs to my feed reader.

    So I’m just dropping by to let you know I’ve added your blog to my feedreader, I’m reading you loud and clear, I have a link up going at my place so my readers can find participating blogs which you are more than welcome to add your blog link to.

    Looking forward to seeing your posts, and you’ll likely see me drop by again during November.

    Happy NaBloPoMo to you!

    1. Thank you so much for taking reading and taking the time to write..and adding me to your feed, too. I can now officially say I have an international fan base!