Monday, May 28, 2007


Today I was thinking about the power of secrets, especially family secrets. I think they are present in both sides of my family (and most likely in yours too). What is a family secret? It is some sort of information that a family either explicitly ("don't ever talk about that") or implicitly ("it's never said, but we know we can't ever talk about that") defines as not being acceptable to talk about (or share with those outside the family). Often there are unspoken rules about the secret(s) and everyone knows what they are. Some examples of family secrets might include:

1. addictions
2. abortion
3. violence
4. abuse
5. financial problems
6. death/suicide of loved ones
7. divorce
8. adultery, sexual sins
9. mental illness
10. any past unsettling event(s)

Usually someone in a power position in the family (often a parent) communicates to everyone directly or indirectly that discussion about a certain topic is not acceptable. Why do they do this? Lots of reasons. Sometimes the reason is shame, shame that a certain event happened. They may also want to protect the family from falling apart. Or they may not know how to deal with something so it easier to just not talk about it. Whether the motives are good or bad, secrets are incredibly destructive to the health of a family. Many people come into counseling with problems related to family secrets and don't feel free to talk about (and process) difficult things that have happened. When a family has a rule that they can't talk about something, it often translates as not being acceptable to feel either. Not feeling the freedom to talk about/feel something can cause major psychological and emotional damage to someone. I have seen this too many times!

I believe the antidote for health-destroying family secrets is authenticity (painful or scary as that may be to imagine) . This can be traumatic to a family because it is essentially breaking the family rules and often creates panic. If the secrets have been held for a long time, I think that individuals should work through the ramifications of challenging those rules with a counselor or wise friend. Someone challenging the status quo in their family needs a lot of support from others before doing so.

Churches have their secrets too. I think that the most unhealthy churches are usually the ones that have the most secrets (and thus the most inauthenticity). May God somehow help us to bring ourselves, our families, and our church's secrets into the light so we can deal with them. May he begin such courage with me.

May Light increase.

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