My first thoughts on hearing this writing group topic were when is a secret really a secret and when is a lie really a lie? How often do we withhold information from others because we don’t want them to think badly of us? Withholding stories because we don’t think others would be interested or maybe because we don’t want to acknowledge the truth behind the story? Is that being discreet, thoughtless or having a secret? How often do we tell ourselves stories about what we can and can’t do without any basis of truth? When we tell someone they look good when really we’re thinking ‘why on earth are you wearing that?’ If someone tells us what we want to hear rather than the full story, is that being protective, tactful or telling a lie? Does the intention behind the act change it from something sinister into something benign or is it all up to the recipient to decide?
I consider myself to have no secrets; no events that I intentionally withhold from others. While I haven’t told everyone every story, if anyone asks and sometimes even when they don’t, I am willing to discuss any aspect of my life. Well, that’s what I tell myself anyway and what I aim to do. Sometimes though, I have been in situations where after assessing the recipient I modify my truths or limit the information I give. Knowing that ultimately the relationship would be better off for not sharing too much. In the dictionary though the word ‘secret’ is defined as not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others. Something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others. In which case it looks like I may be guilty as charged. It would appear I have to admit that much of my inner life is a secret. I definitely keep my insecurities to myself along with events which don’t paint my life in such a rosy light, justifying it as protecting those involved. I often put on an act of bravado to give the impression that everything is fine while secretly crumbling inside. How many of us have things we’d rather not have known or seen about our inner lives? Most, if not all, I would imagine.
The dictionary also describes a lie as an intentionally false statement, used with reference to a situation involving deception or founded on a mistaken impression. Hmmm …. Caught out again! It seems that while I consider myself to be a very honest person with others that may not really be the full picture with myself. My tendency to ‘create’ a story as to why I can’t go through with things or haven’t got time to complete a task may just make me guilty of lying to myself or at the very least guilty of believing my own B*@! S^#+.
The interesting thing is that I can see this so clearly in others; this tendency to give very plausible reasons for not doing things, for not moving forward towards where they actually want to be. In reality, these reasons hold very little real truth. In others I can see through these excuses dressed up as reasons. In myself though it is a much harder task. I hear people tell me things while all the time I know they are keeping the real reasons they haven’t taken action secret and hidden away. Hidden from themselves that is.
Even as I write this, I can hear that little voice (yes, she’s here again!) telling me that there are legitimate reasons for my actions or lack thereof. Many things that have happened to me which I can use as plausible reasons (read excuses there) but ultimately it is a lie to say that I can’t do something because of my past. I’m still physically and mentally functional after all and even then, if I wasn’t would it be reason enough to hold me back? Even Christopher Reeve regained some movement after being paralyzed, continued directing and went on to start foundations to support and help others.
I create stories which I try to rationalize as truths when in actual fact they no more hold me back that a piece of string on the floor. In reality all the ‘lies’, all the BS I feed myself, help to cover deep fears which I hold secret; fears of failure or maybe it is actually a fear of success. A fear of putting myself into possibly vulnerable situations where people can see me ‘warts and all’. The truth is they have probably already seen my hidden ‘lies’ and ‘secrets’ just as I have seen them and theirs.
This is being human though; the need to protect a part of us. All of us do it, well everyone I’ve ever met, so it is completely normal in our society. We all want to feel we’re doing our best and so we rationalize and create reasons for when we feel we aren’t living up to our potential. I think though that if we actually acknowledge what is going on instead of trying to hide it, we can come at things from a healthier perspective rather than berating ourselves or pretending we have it all sorted.
It is OK to not take action and if you are honest about why then it can empower you. Acknowledging what is behind our actions can help lead to resolving issues. In our society we attach morality to tasks when in reality most of the tasks we engage in are morally neutral. Our ability to do or not do for the most part doesn’t make any dent in our value as a person. It means we are human. Maybe in seeing those vulnerabilities, allowing the ‘lies’ and ‘secrets’ which all we share to come to the surface we may actually pave the way for us to connect at a deeper level. It may even allow for us to take the action we want with the knowledge that others are in the same situation, feeling just like we are. We don’t always have to fly solo. When we’re honest about how we are feeling then others will feel able to be honest too. Creating a bond between us, a bond shared by humanity worldwide, a bond which levels us and allows for meaningful connections.