Can you keep a secret?” she asked. “Sure!” was my quick reply, thinking I was going to hear something light-hearted.
My friend then confided that she had been doing something inappropriate for several weeks. It wasn’t illegal, and it wasn’t hurting anyone, but I knew it was wrong . . . and so did she.
I immediately offered an alternative so she could stop what she was doing, but she adamantly declined.
We parted ways, and I felt the weight of an ethical dilemma sink like a boulder in the pit of my stomach.
If I broke her secret, I would betray her confidence and risk losing our fledgling friendship. Yet if I stayed silent, I would be part of a cover-up.
I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Over the next few days, I agonized over what to do. I asked God for wisdom, and sought counsel and prayer from a small group of trusted friends (without sharing specifics).
Through this process, the answer became clear. I couldn’t keep the secret— and I needed to let my friend know.
I dreaded the conversation, as I usually try to avoid confrontation.
Finally, I mustered up my courage to meet with her. I prayed for the right words to say, and for her heart to be receptive.
With gentle firmness (and a pretty rapid heart rate), I shared that I couldn’t be part of hiding her behavior, and again offered assistance to help her stop. To my great relief, she agreed to cease what she was doing . . .and even thanked me.
“I think it was providential that our paths crossed,” she said. “I needed a kick in the butt to change things.”
My conscience finally found its release, and I think hers did, too.
And it was all because I chose to not keep a secret.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in confidentiality. My long-time friends, family and my employer know they can trust me with sensitive information. I have faithfully kept countless things private over the years.
But this situation taught me something important:
There’s an appropriate time to disclose certain secrets—our own, and sometimes even those of someone else.
The news has been filled recently with stories about multiple actresses revealing they were harassed by a powerful Hollywood mogul. Many of them carried their secrets for decades. It triggered a social media blitz of everyday women posting “#metoo.”
These revelations are an example of a much more serious type of secret, but the principle is the same.
If keeping something confidential compromises someone’s well-being, or allows bad behavior to go unchecked, it’s a secret you shouldn’t keep.
While it’s not an easy process, illuminating a secret can be the first step toward healing and freedom.
I encourage you to prayerfully evaluate your life. Is there a secret you need to break?
Beautifully written my friend. Thank you for sharing. I will keep your words in my heart Jane.
Thank you, Deborah! Blessings on you, my friend!