We all have more than one skeleton.
There’s the one that holds our body together… And then there’s that other one… or two… or twenty.
There’s something in all of our lives that influences our actions, our outlooks, our vision… And it could be genetic, it could be something we “did” or something that “happened to us”… Skeletons can even be good.
But we hide them.
As an extrovert, I used to feel betrayed when people hid them from me. I was always for the most part open, sometimes too open, about my issues, but I am generally known as “transparent” in my relationships. I connect best with others who are also more transparent in our relationship or friendship, those who have suffered like I have (or more than I have), and those who are courageous enough to admit it, even if just to me in confidentiality.
I come from a very introverted family. Like all families, we all have skeletons and secrets, some going back for generations. The closer we are, the more we “know” regarding history…. Some secrets in my family have been unnecessarily burdensome to me in the past, but I kept them out of respect for those who could possibly be hurt by my divulging the said secret. Some secrets have been wise to keep, or unnecessary to share because sharing them would serve no good purpose but sensationalism, almost like media tabloids.
I am very protective of my immediate and extended family on the Internet, mainly because I have discovered that the sharing of some information would greatly hurt a person whom I love, and that is the last thing I want to do. I have also discovered that there are some good reasons to keep secrets…. For instance, we don’t need to share our bank account numbers, or a past occurrence that has long been forgiven. Personal past sins of ourselves or another are most likely unnecessary to share… Although, I think some “sinful actions” by those who have become public figures who are asking for our vote may be necessary to know if the sin is grave enough and affected other lives in a significant way. For instance, I would want to know if a candidate is unrepentant about a past murder, or a major lie, or committed treason…. This type of knowledge may not be sensational sharing, but may in fact help me to cast my vote wisely. Knowing that they smoked a joint in college (gasp): well, that’s quite irrelevant to me.
Lately I’ve been meditating on the issues of “detraction,” “slander,” or “calumny” versus “truth-telling” or “necessary whistle-blowing.” Should we share about a known “concentration camp,” or turn our eyes and pretend that people aren’t being tortured and killed? How “big” does the issue need to be to share in order to not be considered detraction or calumny? Some whistle-blowing may have to do with our particular mission in life…. Our truth-telling may also come from our particular passion for justice and charity and Truth….
But my main meditation lately has been regarding more small-scale “truth telling,” especially in regards to social media and in our everyday friendships.
I’ll start with me.
As transparent as I am, I have skeletons. If we are close, and we can support each other, and you aren’t judgmental, and we have similar experiences, I will most likely share them with you. I have experienced betrayal, and I know now what it is like for a trusted “friend” to use my own skeleton/brokenness against me (as if they didn’t have a bigger one), and I don’t care to experience that again willingly.
I also realized recently that sometimes I have an unusual outburst about justice or another issue, and I realized, ahhhh…. I am speaking from “my skeleton closet” and someone triggered me with their words. It could be that someone posted online how they are so unified with their spouse, and I am personally dealing with disunity in my own marriage, and I suddenly feel depressed (simply because it is triggering my “skeleton,” not because of envy, which is not my issue because I truly want others to have joy and blessing…) I might also burst out because I know someone’s personal situation, and they all of a sudden act sanctimonious, as if their life is the Garden of Eden, and I want to say “oh puleeease!!” That’s mainly because I love truth, and I think it’s better to remain quiet than to pretend “all is well.” I’ve seen too many “all is well” people divorce, despair, or even commit suicide, while everyone was left baffled. Putting on a deceitful proud show doesn’t help anyone, or any party in any relationship.
But when is keeping a secret or skeleton appropriate, and is not “putting on a show,” but rather, is charitable and bears good fruit?
I’ll start with this, just to clear the air. All of you, everyone reading this, and everyone who isn’t :), has a hidden brokenness, skeleton, secret, whatever you want to call it. Yes, you. I don’t care WHAT “positive seminar” you just came from and how “naturally happily” (or unnaturally happy) you are, you’ve got something you’re struggling with, something you hide and protect. If you don’t, you’re either not human, or you are so high on drugs and haven’t come down yet, or you’re insane and don’t realize your state in life. If you truly believe you have no struggle, that should be a concern, because the struggle is what makes us mature and holy…. not the comfort. And, oftentimes, you speak from your “skeleton closet” as well, many times without realizing it, just as I do.
Okay…. So now that we got that out of the way, when is it appropriate to keep your struggle to yourself? Here are my thoughts…. I think our vocations are sacred. Slamming our spouse all over the Internet (or publicly) will not help our marriage and is an offense against charity and our vows. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, there are ways in which we can appropriately connect with others, and may even need to connect with others, to let them know we understand their trial, and they understand ours, so that we may both be encouraged along the journey of life. You may have no idea how it stabs someone whose spouse of 25 years just cheated on them and changed the locks of their home, when you gush about your real or fake spousal perfection to their face. Maybe you don’t understand spousal struggle. That’s awesome. Good for you. So keep quiet and pray for those who do. But for those of us who do have some struggles, it is ok to discuss those “skeletons” to a close friend who understands, or even to our priest or pastor or counselor, in a private manner. If the issue is threatening fidelity or causing you to despair: please, share your skeleton with an appropriate party, and please don’t fall prey to outright pretending (i.e. lying.)
Our children: sacred. When I see someone slam their teen online, my stomach churns. I have three teens out of my ten children. Our life is not filled with perfection, of course, and we have some rough hormonal days (more with my preteens, actually) and I really will need “whiskey soup” by day’s end. But they are my children, for goodness’ sake! When you slam your child, of any age, you are insulting your own lack of parenting skills and betraying your own bloodline. When you ask for prayers and/or help with a troubled child situation, that is a different story. For instance, I have a son with Aspergers Syndrome, and sometimes I need some advice on how to better relate with him.
How about keeping in good secrets? Yep, there are blessings we all have as well that are best kept to ourselves or shared with a smaller party instead of something that could be perceived as bragging to a large audience. Let’s say the Good Lord just blessed you with a new mansion and an instant five million dollars. That’s awesome. That’s amazing. But perhaps some “praise the Lord’s” should go directly to HIM. Consider that there are many MANY people who are jobless and struggling. Consider why you feel you need to share this good news. Why do you need to share how many miles you ran? Why do you need to share how much money you have? Why do you need to share about that amazing promotion you just landed? Perhaps you SHOULD share those items… Just like I share about my babies…. But consider that our motive is what determines what and why we need to share it. Sometimes, my motive is raw pride, and I need to check it at the door. I’m speaking for myself as well with all those questions I just asked….
I suppose the last thing I would add is this. Let’s say I AM struggling with a personal issue. The last thing I need is “pity” and “oh honey, I am praying for you, you poor wretch.” As if you don’t have a cross five times the size of my own. Stop that. Lol. Here’s what I would like to hear, whether I’m sharing the details of my skeleton or not…. I want to hear: “I am WITH you…. I am HERE for you… I am praying for you… I struggle, too, and I know these times can be rough…” In short, I need compassion, as do we all. I don’t need “holier-than-thou,” I do need sometimes charitable truth (because maybe I am blind somewhere and need correction), and while I don’t long for you to be stuck in the same ditch with me or have the same exact struggle, I DO long for you to reach out your hand as a fellow human. Most likely, we have different skeletons, different struggles, but if we do “love one another,” we will not be able to turn a blind eye to each others struggle. And we certainly won’t be able to judge the struggle or say something like “you’re just not positive enough.” To all who say such a statement to one who is struggling, I guarantee, your time will come. And those are not the words you will want to hear.
If I have failed in my compassion toward you, my friends, please let me know…. I speak loudly sometimes, and most of the time there is a direct line from my brain to my mouth, with no filter. My best friends are not offended by this, and in fact appreciate it. I myself love people like that. I’d rather know what people are really thinking than play girlie games at trying to figure out hidden meanings and look for mystery skeletons. But not everyone is like this…. (You lucky person, you, with a filter! 🙂 ) And I pray I haven’t said too much or broken hearts simply because I am being transparent…
My heart, indeed, is broken in many ways. But that has given me a gift of compassion. I know all about skeletons. And really, it’s interesting that the skeleton rots after our death, but not our soul.
To those who have loved me, warts and all, skeletons and all, gifts and all…. Thank you.
Now, if you would please close that closet door…. 😉