At our house every topic is open for discussion. My kids ask questions about sex, injustice and are thoroughly interested in discussing cuss words and why we shouldn’t use them. Yesterday in the car my daughter shared with me about the three times she lied at school in kindergarten – two years ago. I think she needed to get it off of her chest.
My husband Joe and I work hard to make truth-telling easy because honesty is a high priority to us. I don’t want my kids to carry around anything they don’t have to. I would rather hear the truth about what they are feeling or doing than have them believe there are secrets that need to be hidden because they are too dirty or shameful to be shared. I am a firm believer that secrets make us sick.
Here’s the hard part. Truth-telling is embarrassing. It exposes our guts to the world, to our friends and to our spouses. Early in our relationship I was embarrassed to tell Joe what I needed because I didn’t want to be perceived as needy or demanding.
I like to celebrate. I love birthdays and making people feel loved is a high value for me. Yet, when Joe and I got married my expectations left me wondering how in the world I ended up marrying a man who could be so deficient in birthday celebrating skills. I went to elaborate measures to celebrate everyone else but when my birthday came around it was barely acknowledged with a card. So I made the very mature and healthy decision of letting holidays slip by without voicing how hurt I was. This technique back fired three years later when I blew up and instigated a huge fight ending in lots of tears.
Whether we are managing other people’s perceptions of us or hiding things because of shame, our secrets hold us captive.
For so long I felt I had to manage my external relationships. I would coach Joe on how he talked about his job, worried he would be perceived a certain way. I worried about what people would think or how they would judge the unconventional decisions we make. I was my own PR person, and it was exhausting.
Hiding from the truth causes us to feel alone and turns the hairline fractures in our lives into deep gaping chasms. Often when this happens we end up filling in the gaps with things that don’t serve us well. There was a point in my life where I filled in my gaps with exercise. Other times it was with sleep or over-commitment. Busy-ness is another way I kept myself from confronting the real issues that needed my attention.
How can you tell you are filling yourself with the wrong things? It seems to me it’s when we use a lot of energy and in the end you feel emptier and less comfortable than before.
So in an effort to live unencumbered, every once in a while I will ask myself, “Do I have anything going on in my life that no one knows about?” And if I do, it might be time to gethonest with someone.
I believe in truth telling because honesty is medicinal. It has healing qualities that neutralizes the fears that make us sick. When we speak secrets out loud it breaks their power over us.
So, let’s create safe spaces where we can be truth-tellers. Places where whole is more valuable than pretty. Where honest is prized more than comfortable. And let’s be families where we don’t have to posture or hide but where we allow one another to spill our guts so that we are free to live whole and loved.