On Keeping Secrets

By Katie, 5:38 am

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’m generally not a big fan of keeping secrets. (Surprise parties don’t count!)

Have you ever heard the phrase “you’re only as sick as your secrets”? That’s certainly been the case in my experience. In fact, I’ve often found that the act of keeping a secret is more painful than the secret itself.

(Source)

That’s not to say that sharing a secret is easy; it can be extremely difficult, especially if it’s been kept hidden for a long time. But at least for me, the relief of sharing has always outweighed the discomfort. It’s opened the door for healing, for moving forward.

Sharing a secret robs it of its power over us.

I’m not suggesting we all start plastering our deepest secrets across our foreheads. Of course we have the right to be selective about the people with whom we share. Maybe it’s only our spouse or partner. Maybe it’s only our closest family members. Or maybe we choose to share our secret anonymously with a community of strangers.

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A friend in college was the first person to introduce me to PostSecret, a community art project through which people anonymously mail their deepest secrets displayed on a homemade post card. These cards are then displayed on the PostSecret website, in an exhibit, or in a book collection.

The founder of PostSecret, Frank Warren, has said the only stipulations are that the secrets be totally honest and totally unshared up to the point of mailing them in. According to Wikipedia, “The secrets are meant to be empowering both to the author and to those who read it. Frank Warren claims that the postcards are inspirational to those who read them, have healing powers for those who write them, give hope to people who identify with a stranger’s secret, and create an anonymous community of acceptance.”

Here’s a selection of PostSecret post cards I grabbed from the Archives. (Note: If you go to check out others, be forewarned that some can be triggering for different issues.)

Kind of heartbreaking, right? And yet so many of us can identify in one way or another.

I fully support the concept behind PostSecret because I truly believe that just getting a secret out – somewhere – can be amazingly cathartic. It begins the process of breaking down the shame and the suffering that build up over the life of a secret.

But it can’t end with an anonymous post card. Something like PostSecret is a great place to start, but it isn’t the finish line. Because no matter what someone’s secret is – no matter how bad it seems or how painful it feels – we all deserve to connect with other people (and with our God) for compassion and support.

Of course, not all of the secrets are so deep and dramatic. I once heard an interview with Frank Warren in which he shared that the most common secret he sees is about peeing in the shower. Go figure. ;-)

Have you heard of PostSecret before? What do you think of the project?

AND/OR

Have you ever let go of a big secret in your life? How did it feel? Of course, only share the details you’re comfortable with.

18 Responses to “On Keeping Secrets”

  1. Simply Life says:

    I actually went to an art museum in baltimore once where the hallways were lined in these postcards – it definitely made walking around very interesting!

  2. I first heard about back when teaching from some of my high school students. It really is SUCH a cool concept. I haven’t looked at the site in a long time though.

  3. I love Post secret…it is just nice to feel like someone out there is feeling the same way you are.

  4. McKella says:

    I’ve never heard of this site, but I like the idea. It sounds like the first baby step in overcoming whatever issues these secrets hide, like being afraid to share your singing voice or improving a relationship.

  5. Lisa says:

    I love Post Secret. It’s often sad and cathartic but I can relate to some of the “secrets.”

  6. Dana says:

    What an interesting post! Thanks for sharing <3

  7. Dana says:

    What an interesting post! Thanks for sharing !

  8. Shawnee says:

    That’s interesting. I actually posted a secret on my blog today without mentioning it. I know that doens’t make since, but i did it and it kind of felt good to get it out there. :/

  9. Hi there – just found you through Then Heather Said. Turns out we live really close! I’m near Lancaster, PA! I’m excited about this because there aren’t many of us around Central PA!

    Great post – my mother just told me a secret she has been holding for YEARS… and I think it was very therapeutic for her to have someone else know.

  10. Oh and I bought your eBook. Very good so far!

    • Katie says:

      Thank you so much, Julie! It’s always great to connect with bloggers who are close by in real life. My brother actually lives near Lancaster now, close to Millersville.

      Great news about your mom! I’m sure it felt good for her to share her secret with you, and you’re a wonderful daughter for being there for her like that.

  11. I saw the Post Secret book at my hair dresser’s and was blown away. So many hidden truths that have never been expressed. It was very moving to read, and at times humorous, too.

  12. bubu says:

    Interesting post, as always, thank you. I have found, oddly, that Facebook is useful for getting things off my chest- not quite secrets, say, but something at work that upset or bothered me and threatens to become a secret or negative feeling since it isn’t appropriate to discuss there. I can say something a bit oblique on Facebook, to my friends, and it is out of my system, I might get a bit of sympathy or a laugh and that is enough for me to move past it. And journaling, even if not sharing the secret, gets it out from inside me and onto the page, and that is also a release (I think I tend to process things through writing too, as witnessed by my long comments!)

    • Katie says:

      Your long comments that I LOVE! :)

      I generally don’t use Facebook in the same way as you, but I definitely see how it can be a great release. And I completely agree about journaling; I feel so much relief just by getting something out of my head and onto a piece of paper.

  13. Teddi says:

    I fell in love with Post Secret my senior year of HS and since then my ritual is to check it every Sunday morning. I have often been moved to tears by some of the secrets, yet in the same breath also have found it very therapeutic–how wonderful it is to know that you really are NOT the only one out there with a hurtful, embarrassing, shameful, happy, confusing experience. I think even a part from what it does for the individual, it also draws humanity together and can be a great lesson in acceptance of all people. (we all have these secrets, these thoughts; we’re not all that different from one another)

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