Pssst…I’ll tell you something if you promise not to tell anyone. Oh, the times we’ve heard this. Said this. Have you ever stopped to wonder why? Why do we burden others with secrets? Because, it IS a burden, asking someone to carry around something they either may feel uncomfortable knowing, or afraid of forgetting and letting the cat out of the bag. And, if THEY can’t say anything about it, why is it even falling out of our mouths? Then, we have those valid concerns we wish not to shout over a megaphone but really want some human connection around. If I want to share something that I don’t want the world to know, but would like input or maybe just not to walk through it alone, I will say, without fail, “I’d like to tell you something, but it would become a burden because it can’t be discussed by you with anyone else. If you’d rather I not tell you, I understand.” This precursor does a few things. It says, “I trust you and you’re the person I want to lean on,” and it acknowledges that a secret is a type of mental weight that we unload onto our friends and family. And, we’re offering them an out. Personally, I detest secrets. I’ll listen to problems or challenges and I’ll keep things to myself because boundaries aren’t that difficult. But, a secret for the sake of a secret? Please, pass me up. If I blow it, unintentionally, we’ll both be upset. I don’t even like surprises if I know one is in the pipeline, let alone secrets. But, when does privacy become secrecy? We could list a page of differentials between the two, switch columns, and many of the same classifications apply to both. Couples often say they have nothing to hide and grant their partners full access to various accounts, from Facebook to texts to email. But, a few months pass and girl checks guy’s Facebook account that is always open on his phone, he loses his mind and she’s labeled a snoop. Wait. Back up. 1.) Access granted. 2.) Permission utilized. 3.) War ensues. It certainly feels like an invasion of privacy to know your email was scoured, your social media perused, your text messages read, without your knowledge. We failed to realize when we made the offer, that we didn’t specify the conditions associated with such liberties. Fine print stuff. Only if you look NOW. Only if you tell me first. Only if I grant access again since you didn’t take me up on it when offered. All unspoken, of course. But, in the mind of the “snooper,” her guy’s an open book. Maybe she has a reason. Maybe she’s looking for a reason. Maybe she’s JUST looking. But, bet me, if we go looking for something, we will find SOMETHING. The brain is a jackass, like that. There is no thing. The brain says, “But, there may be a thing.” The brain convinces you to look to see if there is a thing. You don’t find a thing. But, you found something that could be construed as a thing. And, now, there is a war. A war over privacy on behalf of the account holder. A war over secrecy on behalf of the “finder.” I think we can all agree, even if you didn’t at the beginning of this read, that there is some gray area between secrecy and privacy, depending on who’s talking. I also think the concept of both secrets and privacy can be simplified to a nearly indisputable degree. Secrets make us sick. Privacy doesn’t. Secrets tend to be unhealthy cancers. Privacy lays healthy boundaries. Secrets (almost) always carry shame. Privacy, (almost) never. One allows us to live life with a sense of ease, demarking where our sphere of activity happens, a place where no one else’s sphere of activity should be overlapping. It’s the unspoken, “Stay off my lawn,” of carrying on about our lives. The other says, “I did a thing. Or, a thing was done to me. And, I would rather carry it to my grave like a bag of bricks than share it with another living soul.” Because of the delicacies of secrets so many carry involving various types of abuse, I am not tossing that type of trauma into the mix. Millions carry the crushing pain of a secret they never, ever deserved and many have met an early death because of the shame and pain associated with the horrific, undisclosed, unjustifiable facts of their life. I’m talking about the secrets we never want discovered about ourselves ranging from extramarital affairs, hiding money from your spouse, lying about something that forces you to create an alternate reality to your listener. I was taught at the age of 29, when sobriety found me, that I’m only as sick as my secrets. I now know that’s a load of shit. We’re sick for a lot of well-known characteristics, too. But, there is merit in the statement…I would omit the “only.” Can you relate to worrying that someone is going to “see through you?” That you won’t have the poker face required to mask some fact you wish to hide from the world? Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling, “they know,” and you spend time and energy conversationally dancing around the (hopefully) hidden topic trying to decipher if the secret’s out? When you discovered it was still safe, did YOU feel safe? Likely, you felt drained. Mentally worn down. Emotionally weak. Sick. The ironic bit here, is you’re trying to protect YOU. In some instances, you may be covering for others. But, the feelings are too similar. What atonement would be required should the secret be uttered? Would it wreck a home? A reputation? A career? Is it criminal, even? The hindthought could be saved with proper forethought. When we think we won’t get caught, temptation to do the wrong thing is greater. But, WE know. And, unless you’re a sociopath, like 5% of you are, the aftereffects are not worth the price of admission to a secret world. Lying and deception directly and negatively impact physical health. Justifying our poor choices (I’m going easy on us all, here) requires an immense amount of mental planning, over-explaining and memory. “What took you so long?”…”I had to stop at the bank and there were six armored trucks in the parking lot, and a man in a green Dodge pick-up backed over a fire hydrant and the spray from the hydrant knocked an elderly lady in a pink sweater down. And, then she was bitten by a chihuahua. Someone called 9-1-1 and the firetruck was blocking me and I was stuck behind the armored trucks and in front of the firetruck.” We can’t stop the stream of lies. We go to bed feeling sick. We still have to go to the bank. And, we can’t sleep. Tomorrow, we have to do it all over again. Even if we don’t repeat the action, we keep repeating the lie. And, it takes quite the toll. Privacy does not sabotage our relationships. It doesn’t compromise our morals. It doesn’t cause us shame or guilt. It allows us to sleep at night. It doesn’t require a great memory, a poker face or an explanation. It protects us, rather than making us feel exposed, or fearing that we will be. When questioned about a private matter verses a secret, we feel justified in our boundaries instead of scrambling for an alibi. At the end of the day, and the end of this ramble, it’s not about IF you wouldn’t want the world to know…it’s why. Keep that mental health in check. Guard your relationships, integrity, morals and ethics. Chances are, you’ll be much less likely to find yourself guarding your secrets. Stay tuned, if this post is a bit late for that, we’re gonna delve into how to get yourself out of that mess. It beats the hell out of how you’ve been living. A friend told me. Til part II, Peace, Warriors.