There’s an old but still popular saying: We are as sick as our secrets. This is true the vast majority of the time.
A 16 year old young man I’m mentoring was squirming the other day when his family decided to hit reset after he had gotten in a lot of trouble and his parents realized they needed to monitor his social media use and friendships closer. His parents were going to take his cell phone indefinitely and not allow any access to internet in their home. The young man didn’t know how to imagine life without constant use of his cell phone. His main concern was social media (which was also his parents’ main concern). After he and his parents talked for a while and not coming to any compromise about the phone issue, they asked me to voice in. I suggested they allow 2 twenty minute sessions a day on social media so he can stay connected to his world in the way modern teens do, and I suggested a parent should sit next to him while he uses it and monitor his activity. This would allow for the parent to coach the young man on things like how to talk to people (especially those of the opposite sex), how to help others with their problems, what kinds of information and pictures are appropriate to share for the world to see, etc. This suggestion horrified the young man. He had too many secrets in his life that would be exposed if his parents watched his social media.
Secrets imprison us. They make life hard. Can you imagine how free life would feel if you had nothing to hide, if you had nothing you were afraid someone would find out? When we have secrets to keep, those secrets have a way of directing our lives and tainting relationships. The Bible has an interesting verse in 1 John 1:7.
“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses our sins.”
The idea of walking in the light has to do with exposure. People walk in dark when they do not want to be seen. There’s no hiding in the light. How much of your life do you keep hidden in the dark? This Bible verse has 1 condition with 2 promises. The condition is exposure, walking in the light. This could possibly be restated as “If we don’t make a habit of keeping secrets,” or “if we are authentic and real about everything.” Then there are the two promises. The second promise is a religious one – that we can be saved and made right with God. Maybe you believe that, maybe you don’t. But the first promise is a relational principle that you would be silly to argue with: that we can have relationship with one another IF we walk in the light.
How much can we really know someone who is always lying to us? If someone is constantly walking out of the room to talk on the phone, if they are darting their eyes around to see who’s listening or watching, if they seem nervous when you ask them questions, if they write things down and act paranoid about anyone ever seeing what they write, if they whisper a lot so you can’t hear, etc, how much will you really feel you know about that person? How much of them remains a mystery to you? Can we know someone who wears a mask and never shows us their true selves?
I say that person is a prison in their world of secrets. That person will never feel acceptance or belonging. How can they feel loved if they know inside that no one really knows who they are? If you love them, they feel you only love the mask they wear – the person they try to make sure you think they are. They always fear they would not be loved or accepted if you knew the real them. How sad. Are you that person? Or are you brave enough to be real?
We only know what we know. If you grow up as a child soldier under Joseph Kony, and you only know what you know, then you believe it is normal and acceptable to kill people who disagree with you. What you know defines your “normal”. It would be the same for a child growing up in sex slavery. Their normal is really jacked up, but how can they know that? What about you? What is your normal? You also only know what you know. The moment you admit you only know the limited experiences you have had and that there is a vast infinitude of ignorance that you are limited by, you then begin to know wisdom. When we admit our ignorance we can begin to learn.
At some point in adolescence we begin to think for ourselves for the first time. What if one of the first things you do with your adolescent autonomous brain is to analyze and think about what norms you grew up with should not be norms at all because they are not healthy or functional? The sex slave child would have to think and come to the conclusion that it does not make sense that others should do what they want with his body. For the first time he might realize his body is his own and others should not get to decide what to do with it. The child solider now 16 years old who stops and questions which of his norms might not make sense might come to the conclusion that it is not ok to kill people who disagree with his leader.
In the same way every american teen grew up in a culture with certain norms. Some of them healthy, many of them not healthy. The society made keeping secrets and sneaking around mom and dad normal and acceptable. That is a norm for most American teens, but if you stop and think for yourself about that you might find that is not very functional or healthy. Did God give us parents to collaborate with as we grow into healthy functioning adults? Or did he mean for us to hide and sneak and keep secrets?
Snapchat is one of many messages from the culture that normalizes an unhealthy way of seeing adults and authority as an obstacle to seek around. Snapchat makes your parents out to be the police and you a crook. The more you allow the messages of a fallen society to keep you in the dark, the less equipped you will be for healthy launching into adulthood. Secrets and hiding from adults keeps us childish. We shun the help of positive adults and entrench ourselves in a drama laden childhood, surrounded by other growth stunted children who will never be able to help us become the men and women we could have been.
I challenge you to start unraveling your web of lies. Start walking in the light and exposing your real self. Embrace authenticity. Be real and be brave. You will find your relationships to be much more meaningful. You will feel less lonely. And you will be healthier mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. I handed my phone to the young man I mentioned at the beginning. I said, “You can get on any of my social media, my texts, my emails, my credit card statements, and anything else you find. I have no secrets. And that is a great feeling!” Can you imagine a life like that – where you don’t have to worry about what other people find out about you because you’ve already told them? It might not happen fast, but aim for it.