Secrets and lies are a common practice in our society, just look at our current Administration. Don’t worry, discussing the current political climate is not the point of my article. Secrets and lies among friends are what this article addresses.
Recently, a close business associate of mine from Aviance Records posted a question on his personal page that sparked a great deal of dialogue among his Facebook friends. After a conversation with another friend whether or not it’s okay for friends to keep secrets from one another, I thought the topic of secrets would make for an excellent article.
My business associate’s response to the question is one we should expect to hear from a friend, “in the book of true friendship, you don’t keep secrets from one another.” He also added, “it also depends on how close you are to that person.”
I partially agree. We often use the term “friend” loosely. My grandmother always told me that in a lifetime you only meet one or two people in your lifespan that you will be able to call real friends. If you consider more than two people a friend, you’re blessed. This is a statement I particularly agree with now that I’m in my 40s. What a person thinks a friendship is depends on the language and actions attached to what a friend represents.
Nowadays, a “hello” on Facebook is enough for a majority of people to call someone a friend. For others, seeing a person once a week constitutes a friend, or speaking to someone on the phone weekly can solidify a friendship.
A secret between friends is different than one kept by a husband, boyfriend or someone you’re intimate with. Case in point…if you’re unaware of a partner sleeping around and possibly having unprotected sex, ultimately that secret could cause potential harm to another person. Whether the secret has malicious intent or not, in these cases withholding it is the wrong thing to do.
On the flip-side, withholding information from a friend is not what I consider a secret because our friends are human beings, and they also judge unintentionally. No matter how close you are, people are people. Sharing parts of your life is personal, and sharing every detail of your life is not always the wisest thing to do even if you consider someone a friend.
However, if I know something about a friend, regardless if it will hurt or not, if I consider myself a friend, it is my duty to tell that friend the truth. Although, this can backfire on your ass. Tell your close “friend” you saw his boyfriend at a sex club. This is a real secret I held on to for weeks one time. Once I decided to free myself from that secret, my good intentions turned into the worst decision I ever made. Sadly, a real story and although I thought I was doing the right thing, I ended up becoming the person in the wrong, go figure.
Yes, I can hear you now pointing the finger. “That’s your friend’s relationship, and you should have minded my own business.” I agree, however, the secret was potentially harming a person I considered a friend. Clearly, it boils down to this, deciding if and when to share a secret is subjective and a personal decision.
There is a difference between secrecy and privacy, and I believe we often confuse the two among friends. Argumentatively, when it comes to friendship and secrets, it’s not about the secret but the reality that the person might not consider you the type of friend you thought you were.
Privacy is best defined as the state or condition of being free from observation and disturbance by other people. For instance, when you leave a public event and return to the privacy of your home, the person who sat next to you at the public event can no longer stare at, talk to, or otherwise annoy you. In general, keeping certain things private involves setting and maintaining boundaries that align with your individual needs, values, and beliefs. When your privacy is violated, you might feel angry, and rightfully so, with a desire to pull away from whoever spoiled your privacy.
Secrecy is the active state of intentionally keeping information hidden from one or more people. In general, beyond professional requirements for confidentiality, if you keep something secret it’s because you fear the impact (on yourself or others) that the information might have if it were openly known. What often underlies secrecy is a fear of judgment and reprisal. When your secrecy is violated, you may feel as if you’ve lost control over the information and how others respond to it. Thus, you might feel afraid, anxious, concerned, and angry, and want to pull away.
If you’re wondering whether a certain piece of hidden information involves privacy or secrecy, ask yourself a simple question: If the person I am keeping this information from knew the entire truth, would he or she be hurt or angry?
If the answer is yes, you’re keeping a secret. Looking at porn, cruising for prostitutes, and going to massage parlors are behaviors that many people keep secret. And if you decided not to tell your friend you visited the West Side Club or East Side Club for a quickie, that’s NOT a secret in my eyes; it’s none of their damn business!
Secrets do hold us back and keep us stuck in places we want to be free from, but it’s the fear of judgment that makes secrets acceptable in society.
I still believe the answer to whether or not to spill a secret is subjective and depends on the individual and the friendship relationship. Here are a few responses pulled from my business associate’s Facebook page:
- “I think some things are never anyone’s business, but secrets will always come to light and ripple throughout your life. Live clean, keep yourself open with the people you love.”
- “Depends on the secret? If it will benefit my friend that you don’t tell it I’ll hold it with me, it depends on the outcome, would it be beneficial to tell them or not? There are lots of times I haven’t told friends secrets I know because of my feelings for them; it boils down to critical judgment.”
- “Some people are too quick nowadays to refer to acquaintances as friends. There is a difference between the two. Your advice is correct. The question is: Are they, true friends or acquaintances? Only that person can answer that.”
- “In all honesty, if it affects your friend in some real way, then no, I wouldn’t keep to myself. But the fact that you can keep things to yourself shows everyone one that you can be trusted. If it just hurts my friend’s feelings no won’t say it. But it depends on. There are a lot of things I’ve been told thru the years that I’ve never mentioned, but if it were my mess or my mess up, I’d gladly share.”
- “Yeah but not revealing every and any detail doesn’t mean your not a true friend. We are all entitled to keep things to ourselves, so if someone was molested as a child or their father killed somebody, just saying, is that keeping a secret from them?”
- “No matter who the person or persons in your life are, some things you need to save for and keep to yourself. It doesn’t mean you love or trust them any less.”
- “It depends on what it is and what the outcomes are. You can’t assume that it is right in all cases. True, secrets turn into lies and pain very easy.”
The responses prove there is no definite answer to the question. I believe; when the time comes, and you’re faced with a secret, you will make the right choice whether to share it or take it to your grave.