Ever notice how secrets take on a life of their own? It's a rare secret that lies quietly in the soul. Sometimes they begor even demandto be told. Other times, they become the hidden source of unbalanced behavior. Either way, it's possible for a secret to begin as a small thing but eventually impact every area of our life.
I had a secret like that. I did something stupidsomething I knew was wrong. I wandered into an online chat room and found myself flirting with a total stranger. My marriage was in a difficult season, and to be blunt, the attention felt really good. But sin, no matter how great it feels at first, is like a lesion that doesn't heal. It just keeps getting bigger and deeper until it's treated. I needed the Holy Spirit's conviction and God's healing mercy. I received both, but not before my secret turned me into a nervous wreck. I'd think, What if someone discovers what I've done? What would they think of me?
I know a lot of women in the same boat. Their secrets may not be exactly like mine, but the results look about the same. When we're grumpy, anxious, stressed, or hurting, it's possible the culprit is a harbored secret.
Sometimes the secrets we keep have to do with our mistakes. Other times, we harbor secrets about wounds we've suffered at the hands of others.
I spoke with a woman who admitted that during her eight-year marriage, she kept silent about her husband's violent outbursts, phone-sex habit, and numerous affairs. Her silence kept her trapped in a situation that led, ultimately, to her hospitalization. Today she's divorced, rebuilding her life, and breaking her silence for the first time to trusted friends and a Christian counselor.
Either waywhether we've been the villain or the victimour dark secrets can be potent sources of shame, pain, and bondage.
What about you? Is there an unspoken failure, sin, or hidden wound in your life keeping you from experiencing all God has for you? Many times I've seen women experience freedom, healing, and joy when they've mustered the courage to tell the secret that's been keeping them hostage.
Confession is good for the soul.
Several years ago I was speaking at a ladies' retreat when a woman approached me after the session and confided that she'd had an affair. She said that even a year after the affair had ended, she remained in bondage to guilt and pain until the day she bared her soul to a friend. She admitted, "After I told my friend, I was filled with panic. I thought, What have I done! What if she tells other people? But she never told, and her love for me never wavered, either. Looking back, I see my confession was the beginning of my healing. My secret had been eating me alive, but after I told someone, its power began to wane."
On another occasion, I was in a prayer meeting when a woman stood, trembling, and said, "I've never told a soul, but I can't bear it alone another day. I had an abortion five years ago, and I've never been able to get over the loss and pain." She'd been standing by herself, but suddenly women all over the room made their way to her side. As loving arms embraced her, she began to cry. She wasn't alone anymore.
The truth is, confession's good medicine. For one thing, healing's available to us when we confess our sins directly to God. After all, we're assured that while nothing's hidden from God's sight, we have a Savior who can fully understand our weaknesses. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we areyet was without sin." This means we can approach his throne with confidence, knowing we'll find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.
What a great promise! But God also wants us to experience the healing, accountability, and encouragement that come when we are honest with each other. The apostle Paul writes to the Galatians: "Carry each other's burdens" (6:2). James 5:16 says: "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." And Proverbs notes: "Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man's counsel is sweet to his friend" (27:9, NASB).
Being honest about my struggles and mistakes has made a difference in my life. The first time I told a close friend about my chat-room experience, I was pretty nervous. Now I mention it when I speak to women's groups. The ladies I'm trying to encourage appreciate my honesty. I do it for the health of my soul and the integrity of my relationship with God. I also don't hide the fact I struggle with recurring clinical depression, a struggle many women share but are sometimes too ashamed to admit.
You and I will never be perfect. In fact, most days we're not even good. If goodness and perfection were within our grasp, we wouldn't need Jesus. So we'll never be perfect. But we can be real. And we can live free from the chains of unspoken failures and wounds.
Hidden secrets hold us hostage.
When we dare to speak the truthto the masses or to one caring friendsomething happens. Suddenly we're in a position not only to receive encouragement, but to give it to others struggling with the same thing. We also can ask people who love us to hold us accountable as we try to make better choices. And when we bring a secret to light, we no longer have to live with the crippling fear that one day we'll be discovered. We'll also have slain the biggest dragondenialthat bars the way to getting the help we might need. Finally, when we share a secret with godly friends or wise counselors, we often say good-bye to shame as well. Hopefully our confidante will be wise enough to remind us of the truth: Everybody struggles, all have gone astray, Jesus loves us despite our biggest mistakes or wounds, and there's forgiveness, mercy, and healing for anything we've done or endured.
Wanted: Good listener with a wise heart and waterproof shoulder.
But how do you find the right person with whom to share your heart? For starters, avoid airing dirty laundry to casual acquaintances who don't want or need to know. Once my sister Michelle was giving a bridal shower for her friend Jenny. One woman, calling to RSVP, said, "I'm planning to come to the party, though it's hardly a secret Jenny did have sex with my husband, Mark." Turns out Mark and Jenny dated when Mark was single. Still, my sister was dumbfounded at the too candid confession from a total stranger. It's possible to bare too muchand to the wrong folks.
It's also a good idea to use some discretion. For example, do not tell your deepest, darkest secret to a coworker whose nickname around the office is Speed-Dial Donna.
The next time you're wondering if someone would make a wise confidante, ask yourself these questions:
Is she trustworthy, or does she love to talk about other people's secrets? If she tells their secrets, she'll tell yours, too.
Is she honest about her failures, fears, or struggles? If not, she might feel uncomfortable with that kind of honesty from you.
Does she share my values? If you don't usually agree with her values or the choices she makes, you might think twice before taking her advice.
I'll be the first to admit there are plenty of women who have shared something personal from their lives, then lived to rue the day! Their experience didn't lead to healing at all; instead, they were judged, scolded, blackmailed, or made the topic of gossip. I can't promise that'll never happen to you. But it's a risk we have to take, because the alternative's living in bondage to our secrets.
Unpack those deadly secrets.
Many years ago when I was living in California, I cowrote a book entitled Deadly Secrets. It told the story of a young man who lived a secret homosexual lifestyle and eventually contracted aids.
Several years later, my then-husband accepted a position in Dallas. We spent weeks packing everything for our big move. Fortunately for us, we had friends and family who showed up to give us a hand. My sister Michelle came and brought a man she'd just started dating.
We'd been slinging boxes all morning when we stopped to order pizza for lunch. We were sitting on the floor, balancing paper plates and cups, when Michelle mentioned to her friend, Paul, that I was a writer.
He said, "Really? What kinds of things have you written?"
"Probably nothing you've seen. I co-wrote a book called Deadly Secrets "
Paul immediately laughed. Relieved, he said, "When I was loading boxes into the truck, I got concerned when I saw some boxes labeled 'Deadly Secrets.' I kept wondering what I'd find nextmaybe 'skeletons from the closet'?"
In any case, my box of Deadly Secrets got to Texas. And to be frank, they're the only deadly secrets I keep around. The other kind are too treacherous. I always find somebody with whom I can talkmy sisters, my mom and dad, my best girlfriends, professional counselorsfolks who can listen, love me, encourage me, hold me accountable, and sometimes just hold me.
So if you want to know one of my secrets to feeling better when life gets me down, that's it. I just told you.
Don't harbor deadly secrets. Tell someone you can trust.
And I suggest you leave Speed-Dial Donna off the list.
To Blab or Not to Blab .
BLAB WHEN .
mentioning a secret sin to a trusted friend would help prevent you from doing it again.
sharing would help heal or com-fort someone who struggles with the same situation.
you'd feel free from guilt or pain by telling someone, even if you've already confessed to God.
you secretly hurt someone, and you need to confess to receive forgiveness from that person.
someone's in danger and telling the proper person could save her from harm. It's a responsibility to report child abuse or similarly damaging things even if telling will greatly affect the abuser. Blabbing, in this case, supersedes any reason not to tell.
DON'T BLAB WHEN .
it's not your secret to share.
telling will ruin a surprise.
it's something private you share with your husband.
it isn't the appropriate time.
there's no good reason to tell.
telling will ruin someone else's reputation.
the person you're thinking of telling doesn't share your faith and values.Amy M. Tatum
Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.
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