07 March 2010

Lesson #20: Don't keep secrets.

Oh... secrets.


I had some fodder for this post, but I promised not to tell, soooooo.....


Alright.  Secrets.  There are some we could probably keep.  For example, the people around me do not need to know precisely what I'm thinking, every second.  If someone confides in me, in need of a sounding board, or some advice, I should keep my promise not to spill.  There are also secrets I should not keep - if someone tells me something that suggests they're going to harm themselves, or someone else, for example.  I don't mean to address these types of secrets.  I want to talk about another kind.

The kind you keep when you take the last cookie meant for the hard-working orphan children, or when you break a favorite coffee cup, or when you screw up and do something to really hurt someone's feelings or violate their trust in you.  That kind of secret.

It's not always easy to 'fess up.  It can mean facing The Wrath.  It can mean damaging relationships, or a loss of respect from someone you care about.  In a lot of ways, taking responsibility for an action can make it more real.  You have to face the music.  You have to deal with consequences, which are not always fully weighed or considered before actions happen. Unfortunately.

Sometimes, you can brush a secret like that under the rug.  The orphan children may never find out you ate their cookie. But you, my friend... you will know. (chocolate chip peanut butter! How could you?!)  And that's where things get dangerous.

Keeping a secret is like sitting, literally, on top of a pressure cooker.  You can clamp down that lid, but the pressure is going to build, and build, and build, until finally the pressure release thing busts open and steam comes shooting out and... well... just go with the image.  Another, perhaps more popular image, is of something rotting inside, that starts to affect everything else.

But it's just a cookie, you say?  Even if you promised the orphan children that you would keep those cookies just for them... how could it matter that much?  It's not like someone's going to tell them that YOU ate the cookie.  Besides, someone else will send them better, tastier cookies.

This rationalization is where it gets really bad.

So not only have you violated your own personal ethic (because, presumably, you're feeling guilty about the Cookie Incident, which is why it's now a secret) and wronged someone else... you're now also wronging yourself, ignoring the Voice (Lesson 10) - conscience, guilt, responsibility, etc - and breaking your word (Lesson 17 - isn't it amazing how they're all coming together?!).  Which means you're lying to yourself (Oh! Oh! Lesson coming up!).  In denial?  Hmm.  Maybe this is like keeping a secret from yourself. (Stay with me)

There will also be others - friends, well-meaning or not, or perhaps one of the pre-schizophrenic voices - who will try to make you feel better.  They might tell you that it's fine to eat the cookie, as long as you don't do it again, or make the orphan children tastier, better cookies.  With walnuts.  

This might make some people feel better.  Me?  Not so much.  Because some kids don't like walnuts.  And because in the end, I would know I was wrong.  These people mean well, but there's the potential there to enable the behavior or incident or whatever that was wrong to begin with.

So the moral of the Cookie Incident is... don't keep secrets.  There are other things tied into this.  Don't lie.  Don't steal cookies from starving orphan children.  Don't rationalize your unhealthy/wrong behavior, or let others rationalize your behavior for you.  But the most important thing is not to keep secrets, from yourselves or the ones you love.  When someone trusts you to send them cookies, don't eat them.  If you eat them, admit it and do what you can to make it right.  You might be terribly afraid of what the orphan children will say, but you might be wrong.  They might forgive you and take the new batch made with walnuts.  And if they do hate you forever? At least you gave them a choice, to rebuild the cookie-donation-relationship, or to move on to a more reliable cookie donor. Hopefully you stayed true to what you believed, learned the lesson about stealing cookies, and avoided a steam burn where the sun doesn't shine.

Chocolate chip peanut butter... how could you?

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