Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, August 28, 2020! Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
In my personal Mindfulness practice, I receive daily guidance from the Mindful Life Program (MLP). I highly recommend joining their thriving community and receiving their support. One day this week, the MLP daily guidance was based on a Frank Warren quote: "Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world." This hit me really hard. Maybe because I too [had] secrets. For years, driven by fear, shame, and a sense of loneliness, I stowed my secret(s) in the depths of my being where they chewed away at my character. I see now how this pain and emptiness drove my unkind, harmful, and hurtful behaviors.
Despite the fact that I had little conscious awareness of it, the choices that I made and the beliefs that I held were a reflection of what had happened to me (my secrets) and how and where I was raised. These external influences combined with immaturity created the circumstances for me to do other things that would eventually require secrecy. Because if others knew what I did, or even thought, what would they think of me? I already thought poorly of myself, I didn’t need others to do the same. In my mind, they already did. I believe meow that my gnawing secrets, combined with the demographics in which I was raised, significantly influenced every [bad] choice I made.
In thinking about Warren’s quote, I am reminded of a saying that I heard early in recovery, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” I was encouraged to share my secrets. I was told that if I didn’t, I may not be able to stay sober. This motivated me. I didn’t want to go back to the demoralizing misery of active addiction. I followed the suggestion, piecemeal. I had more than one secret. It took me few years to tell those I trusted what I had done and that which was done to me. I clearly remember when I shared my last one and how it felt. It was as though a tether securing me to a cement block in the pressurized depths of the sea was severed and I floated to the surface. I felt like I could breathe, I mean really breathe, for the first time.
Because I acutely remember the feelings and the corresponding actions of holding on to my private stories, I’m better able to see how so many people around the world are reeling from their secrets and they can’t – won’t – let anyone see them. Sadly, many cultures view vulnerability as a weakness and so we are forced to carry our sealed baggage into the depths of despair. In this lonely morass of fear and secrecy we act out and frequently hurt others, and ourselves.
If we get in touch with and release our own inner pain and turmoil – our secrets – we will see this how this tendency to silently harbor our painful past is common between all of us. And when we can begin to see our commonalities, we can begin to see and treat each other as equals. Because we really are equals – though we may not appear to be on the outside.
The truth is, the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor, regardless of age and skin color, all suffer the toxic effects of concealing painful secrets equally. And as Warren suggests, we all have them.
So, when I recognize someone acting in ways that are harmful, hurtful or even cruel, instead of rashly judging them as insensitive jerks, I have to ask myself, “I wonder what the causes and conditions were in their life – what are their secrets – that are impelling them to act in such a way?” “I wonder how I can help?”
I love you and there is not anything that you can do about it.
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