It’s always surprising when and where you’ll find common ground.
One of my struggles, one that’s common amongst anyone who tries to help others in any capacity, is between my commitment to the truth and the need to protect others’ confidences. When you are told of a crime or an injustice, it is difficult to remain silent.
Christian counselors routinely emphasize the importance of truth in their work as well. While it often comes from a place of “God’s truth”, the main commitment to the idea of truth in word and deeds remains the same. As I read their analysis, I find it fascinating to see how they balance that commitment to truth with professional and personal obligations.
One thing I’ve repeatedly seen is that the only way through to recovery is truth. Acknowledging every ugly aspect of life is a vital step to be able to see the truly beautiful. Oftentimes, people who speak what they see as the truth are viewed as negative. But there’s nothing inherently pessimistic or cynical about honesty. In fact, it is fundamentally cynical to pretend that truth and honesty trade off. It says, “The world in matter of fact actually sucks, so the only way to be optimistic and positive is to lie”.
When we pretend that every claim is just as true as any other, we are denying the ability to face and identify injustice and to allow people to recover. The mind needs to be able to hold onto truths and to work against them. When a victim of a trauma or a person struggling with depression can think that it’s all “just a matter of perspective” that they’re hurting, it’s not just their own pain they are whisking away by rhetorical and philosophical magic, but everyone’s.
So, how can we stand up for truth while respecting the rights of others to choose to remain silent?
First of all, when someone tells me a secret, I will tell them if I am comfortable holding it. More importantly, I will tell them that I will never change my mind on my advice for them to say it. It’s their choice to be honest and truthful to their experience, but it’s my choice to advocate for it.
Second, I can stand up for the broader social issues that led to their pain. If I hear a victim tell me their suffering, I can stand up against rape. If I hear about depression, I can raise awareness.
Truth can be immensely positive. If we speak the beautiful truths, that can be a light that will lead someone forward.
I will undoubtedly repeatedly navigate this issue of confidences as I expand the circle of what I do. Being a secretkeeper is an important duty, and one I take seriously. But when it comes to me, my life, and my truth, I won’t compromise, and I believe that anyone who seeks to help others and be positive has to feel the same way.