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whats the differenceIn many ways a pastor’s life and a therapist’s life are similar. We are each entrusted with the confidences of others; and we keep their secrets. This “containing of their secret” provides relief to them because the keeping of the secret was killing their soul. It can prove to be weighty for us as we hear of shame and evil that we must now contain. This is part of our job. It is part of how we function as agents of healing. We are safe containers of the hidden.

There is a very real pitfall here, because many times we try to become the containers of our own secrets. These self-serving secrets will destroy us the same way our parishioners’’ or clients’ secrets were destroying them. We are not designed to contain our own secrets. Our psyches simply can’t do it. We stuff them down and then their memory pops up out of nowhere to haunt us; sometimes years later, nearly always with messy results.

Please don’t be fooled, secrets are addictive and get progressively worse. They come out of our desire to meet our own needs of security, acceptance, and significance. They flow when we turn inwards to meet and protect these needs, and they are always a denial of God’s Spirit of Truth.

Self-serving secrets come in many forms.

  1. The first is the most innocuous. It is simple omission. Recently, I chose not to tell my wife about a traffic citation. I figured I’d wait until finances were better or maybe it would get dismissed. I knew she’d be upset; that scared me and so I have kept my mouth shut. That is a secret of omission. I know that the issue is only going to get worse and so I still haven’t dealt with it other than to talk to friends so it doesn’t prattle on inside my head all alone.
  2. The second is the small white lie. It is the spin. If you are in sales you know all about this one. You colour the truth, shading it so that it fits your own version of reality, denying the existence of another reality at all. You figure that since it is not a lie of substance it doesn’t really matter. We most often tell these lies to feed our own sense of narcissism, though others tell them to cover their anxiety. It is like a Tony Robbins psychological trick. If I believe something enough I can make it be true; or at least shape it to be true. The trouble is that you can’t and the lie to gain advantage will drive you further into the darkness.
  3. The third is the out and out lie. It is the “I got sick so I missed our appointment,” or the “I have another appointment so I can’t make it…” when you really don’t. Or it is the, “I’m going out with the guys,” when you are really off with a girl. Or I’m going to spend time with my friend who is hurting and you are really going to see your boyfriend on the side.

Secrets will kill you. Find someone to talk to them about it. Do a fearless moral inventory of truth telling and make sure you’ve dusted the corners. You will feel better after you have done so.

secrets and lies

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