“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~Buddha
Do you have a secret?
Are you holding something inside that you are afraid to admit to others — or maybe even acknowledge fully to yourself?
A secret, a hidden or repressed truth, is like a parasitic worm eating you up from the inside out. Eventually the truth wins — but at what cost?
Guilt, shame, and pretense almost always manifest in physical illness, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or some other painful expression of repression or lying.
You don't have to have committed a heinous crime to experience the pain of a secret life. (Although I've often wondered why guilty murderers keep proclaiming their innocence when they've been sentenced. Holding that secret must be tormenting.)
Just compromising our integrity or living an inauthentic life is enough to chafe at one's soul. We frantically seek relief from the emptiness and heartache of a “secret” self by any means possible — drinking, over-spending, over-working, etc.
Pretending to be someone you're not, living a lie, telling lies, or withholding a portion of the truth, will surely prevent you from living a full and happy life — but only always.
Why is it so hard to be honest with ourselves and others, even though we know the importance of the truth? Most of us were raised on lessons of truth, and yet we learn quickly that lying seems more convenient or expedient. And we keep lying until our noses grow longer than the lie itself.
Small children are great barometers of the truth and can smell adult lies a mile away.
We might think we are deceiving them, but we aren't. And most children can't cope with lying themselves. I've watched my own children's faces twist in guilt and anxiety while they steadfastly proclaim they absolutely did not eat that cookie before dinner.
Sadly, children are only imitating what they see many adults doing either overtly or covertly. Lies, lies, everywhere are lies. The truth gets lost behind our fears, ego, and pride.
Today I heard an interview that Oprah did many years ago with Ellen DeGeneres. It was right after Ellen came out as a lesbian. She was discussing the years when she was afraid to admit to herself and others that she was gay — and her extreme pain in living a false life. I've heard many gay people tell this same story, especially years ago when being gay was much less accepted.
Being honest about who you are can be a terrifying prospect, especially when you might face rejection, shaming, or even threats to your livelihood or safety. But living a lie can become even more terrifying.
At some point you realize you can no longer bear the shackles of a secret. At some point, you accept that only the truth can set you free, regardless of the consequences.
If you are holding on to a secret . . .
If you are living a lie . . .
If you are stepping outside of your integrity . . .
If you are repressing a reality . . .
If you are turning your head or burying it in the sand . . .
If you are pretending to be something you are not . . .
If you are glossing over the facts . . .
I encourage you to step out into the sunshine of the truth, and let the truth set you free.
Yes, it may mean you are embarrassed.
It may mean you feel some shame.
It may mean you are rejected by some.
It may mean you have to make a change.
It may mean you are punished.
But . . . the flood of relief with the truth will wash away so much of the pain.
And quite often, the truth is not as scary or awful as you perceived it to be. Quite often, the truth leads you to something better, so much better, than you are experiencing right now.
So how does one go about embracing the truth if you've lived weeks, months, or years of lies or secrets?
When you've become ingrained in your lie, sustained by your secret, or fooled by your false self, how do you even recognize the truth and begin to invite it into your life?
Much depends on the depth and breadth of your secret.
It takes much more work to address and heal a deeply-held, long time falsehood than it does to admit cheating on a test or taking the last cookie. But every slate of un-truth, even the small ones, should be wiped clean so you can live in freedom and peaceful contentment.
Here are some ideas that might help:
- If you have told a lie and just reading this makes one pop into your head, then it's time to fess up. Even if the lie is very old, tell the truth and apologize fully. Go beyond that and make it right. If the truth will deeply wound another person, then speak with a counselor or other helping professional about whether or not it's best to come clean. If not, then express your remorse and the truth to your counselor.
- If you are living a lie by pretending to be someone or something that you are not, then it is past time to fully acknowledge and embrace who you really are. If you don't know who you are, then start finding out. Begin to ask yourself questions about what you do and don't like about your life, what feels authentic and what feels false, what makes you happy and energized and what depletes you. Rarely does sustained happiness come from a life chasing materialism and ego satisfaction.
- If you are repressing something, it's time to let it come to the surface and deal with it. We repress things because we are frightened, but repressed feelings will bubble up in the form of illness, anxiety, and depression. Find a counselor or trusted friend with whom you feel safe to discuss long buried feelings or secrets. Shine the light of truth on them so you can heal and thrive.
- If you are cheating or taking advantage of people or yourself by withholding the truth, telling the partial truth, or glossing over the truth, that can be just as harmful as telling an outright lie. It's sneaky and underhanded and will erode your self-respect. Examine where you might be telling half-truths to yourself or others. Open all of the doors and windows of your integrity so the cool breeze of truth can flow through easily.
- Know when to lie. There are some circumstances in life that require us to withhold the truth or even tell a lie. This might be to protect a child or another loved one from harm or hurt. Or it might be create a surprise or special moment for someone. Examine your intentions with these “white lies” to ensure the outcome truly merits the deceit. Put yourself in the other person's position and ask yourself if you would want or need the truth in the situation. Rarely does deceiving yourself serve any positive purpose. The truth will emerge in spite of your best attempts to quell it.
One universal truth cannot be ignored: the truth will always emerge.
It might emerge through the back door, battered and trembling. Or it can shine forth by our own courageous intentions. It is often a choice between the brief and sharp pain of self-awareness and bold honesty or the lingering and debilitating dull ache of deception.
Rip the band-aid off quickly so that once the sting has abated, you can bask in the peace of an honest life. Let the truth set you free to embrace all of the fullness and joy of authentic living.
What has been your experience with the truth setting you free?