Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) believe in eternal families. It is the basis, really, of everything we hold dear to our hearts. We are literally the children of our Heavenly Parents. The family will continue as an eternal unit after this life on earth. We all know that living in a family isn’t always easy, but knowing that we are an eternal unit gives us all the more reason to learn how to love, get along with, and survive our families. One critical aspect of each family is the ability to trust each other. Trust and family secrets go together like oil and water—they just don’t mix.
Why keep Secrets?
There are many reasons why people keep secrets. Sometimes we keep secrets to protect someone, whether that be ourselves, or another person. Other times we keep secrets out of embarrassment or shame. Secrets are sometimes kept because of sin.
Maybe we even keep secrets out of a sense of pride. Whatever the reason for a family secret, it will never end well. There are consequences for dishonesty—even if our motives are pure. Sometimes the consequences are self-inflicted by the lack of trust others display in us for our dishonesty. At other times, our lack of honesty ends up deeply hurting others. In both instances, the bond with other family members is damaged—sometimes irreparably.
Occasionally, we even take family secrets to the grave. We tell ourselves that if we succeed in dying prior to the exposure of the secret that we’ve somehow won the game. Unfortunately, we can’t control the information after our death, and eventually, someone will discover the truth. Exposed family secrets probably hurt the most when they are discovered after the death of the keeper of the secret. On one hand, we mourn the loss of our loved one; on the other, we have no way to release our anger without guilt, and no one to fill in the gaps of any unanswered questions.
Since my parents were converts to the Church and fell away not long after, and since I was not active when my children were growing up, I never learned the art of a formal “family council.” However, I did grow up talking at our big round kitchen table at dinner time, and I inherited that table and kept up the tradition. No topic was/is taboo at that table.
I’ve always hoped that my mother’s table would be the catalyst for discussions to bind our family together with such force that family secrets would never be necessary for anyone. I don’t live in a bubble, and I know that every family has secrets of some kind. I just hope that we’ve been able to minimize the secrets to a miniscule amount—because there is no doubt about it, family secrets hurt.
My research produced several articles like this one explaining that keeping secrets has been known to cause illness, and even mental illness (Susan Handler, MEd, “5 Reasons Why Keeping Family Secrets Could Be Harmful,” World of Psychology). Secrets are stressful, and stress often causes a variety of ills.
Have you noticed that when you keep a secret, a child will instinctively know there is something amiss? We not only create stress for ourselves but our children and other family members. Often the truth hurts less than the secret. The consequences of family secrets can be long-reaching and last for generations.
Once you lose the honesty in a relationship, I mean, I think you don’t have a relationship at all. — Elizabeth Gillies
Do nothing secretly; for time sees and hears all things, and discloses all. — Sophocles
If we have a desire to be with our families forever, we must build trust—the forever kind of trust that can only be built within the family unit. I agree with the Elizabeth Gillies quote above, relationships cease to exist without honesty. Sophocles also had it right that over time every single secret will be exposed. Even if we take a secret to the grave, it will eventually come out and cause harm. Isn’t it better to deal with our problems now?
Even the foundation of the LDS Salt Lake Temple had to be destroyed and rebuilt because it was not built on a sturdy foundation. There is a great lesson to be learned from that. Our families cannot stand on faulty foundations. Lies and secrecy most assuredly are faulty foundations. Eternal families are built on honesty, integrity, humility, and service. We serve one another by sharing the good along with the bad. That’s how trust is built—one solid brick at a time.
Whether you use an old round table or a formal family council, begin today to build the foundation of your family on a solid foundation of honesty. Don’t keep secrets that will eventually cause irreparable harm to your eternal family unit. There are truths that hurt, yes, but the truth only hurts for a little while. Lies hurt forever.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.