Have you ever told a secret to someone and that secret was used against you? Perhaps the person you shared with treated you differently or shamed you in some way, or maybe they told your secret to someone else.
That is incredibly painful.
And if that’s happened to you, it’s probably made you feel afraid to confide in other people because you don’t want that same thing to happen again.
But here’s the thing: When we break the silence, we shatter the shame.
Secrets, guilt, inadequacies, fears, insecurities – anything we want to keep hidden because we are afraid to tell someone holds power over us. We may not notice how much power until after we tell our secret and feel the weight lift off our shoulders.
“…The truth will set you free.” John 8:32 ESV
I hope you’ll remember the things that happened to you are not your fault. They don’t define you. They can’t control you. And poor choices you’ve made all on your own? They don’t define or control you, either. With the strength of Jesus, sin has no power over you.
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Romans 6:6 ESV
You get to choose to overcome. Often, the first step is to simply break the silence. Tell someone. A therapist, a close friend or loved one, or a preacher or elder may be a good place to start.
As important as it is to break the silence, I will not pretend that your secrets will be safe with just anyone – even those who are supposed to keep secrets are fallible human beings. So what can you do? How do you know it’s safe to talk to someone?
How to find safe people:
1) Build appropriate relationships without expectations. Get to know other people and build relationships with them. Pay attention to their character before you share your stories.
2) Notice how someone treats you when you’re doing well, and when you’re not. Proverbs 17:17 tells us that, “A friend loves at all times.” Is your person loving you at all times? Nobody will be perfect, but if your friend is only there when you’re low but can’t handle your successes, or vice-versa, if your friend cheers you on when you’re flying but runs away or criticizes you when you fail, this is not the person to confide in.
3) Pay attention to how your friend talks about other people. Is the conversation filled with gossip, telling you someone else’s secrets, and slander? Or is the conversation primarily uplifting and one that doesn’t reveal other people’s secrets? Remember that the way a person talks to or about someone else is how that person will likely talk to and about you some day.
4) Start small. Did you share a small confidence with only one person that ended up getting around to other people? There’s your queue to keep your lips sealed more tightly in the future. If, however, they keep small confidences, chances are that they’ll keep larger secrets, too.
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Luke 16:10 ESV
5) Gauge their honesty. Do you hear white lies coming from them? Or do you hear full truths? Generally speaking, an honest people is a good secret keeper, but someone who will lie is not. (It’s the difference between serving their own interests and serving the interests of others.)
6) Pay attention to how someone makes you feel after you share something. Are they offering you relief? Some things you might hear from a safe person are, “Thank you for trusting me with this” or “I am glad you trust me enough to share that” or “I won’t treat you any differently now that I know this about you” or “I will not tell anyone the things you’ve shared with me.” On the other hand, if someone laughs at you, ridicules you, or makes you feel worse in any way, then it is okay and good to stop sharing and to seek out someone else who may be safe, instead.
This list isn’t just for finding safe people – work on the 6 things mentioned above so you can become a safe person, too. If you know you’ve failed in one or more of these areas, please go to the people you think you’ve hurt and ask their forgiveness. It will mean so much to them!
Also, please remember that nobody is perfect. If you want to have a good relationship with someone who fails in one or more of the above areas, start a conversation. Don’t just give up without trying! Go to that person in love and carefully address your concerns.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15 ESV
If you need a safe person, you can talk to me. So many of you share part of your life stories with me and that is my greatest privilege and honor as a writer. Whether you want to share something joyous or difficult, I love being your safe person. If you feel comfortable, leave a comment below so others can be encouraged by your words, too. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment, send me an email – I promise to always keep your words confidential and non-judged.
In case you’ve missed it, I want to let you know that I’ve been utilizing Story Highlights on Instagram, so take a look around on my profile. From parenting and free therapy (kind-of like what you’re reading in this post!), to Bible thoughts and declutter tips, I think you’ll find something that will interest and encourage you!
I’d love to hear: What would you add to this list? How do you know if someone is safe (or not)?
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