Keeping Secrets

Afraid to share secrets

In February’s The Atlantic magazine I found an article titled Why You Can’t Keep a Secret, reporting on several studies that explore the cognitive and emotional toll of keeping secrets. Among the points I found interesting:

  • In one recent study, subjects asked to conceal their sexual orientation in an interview performed worse on a spatial-ability task, reacted more rudely to criticism, and gave up sooner in a test of handgrip endurance [1].
  • Another study found that subjects asked to recall a meaningful secret perceived hills to be steeper and distances to be longer than those asked to recall a trivial secret. When researchers requested help moving books from their lab, the subjects harboring meaningful secrets lifted fewer stacks [2].
  • Other research shows an association between keeping an emotionally charged secret and ailments ranging from the common cold to chronic diseases [3].

Secrets weigh heavily on me.  It’s exhausting to think of all the secrets I juggle. Though they all seem to stem from one central secret (“I’m gay!”), they grow up as separate beasts, each needing constant attention.

  • I’m afraid to tell straight people that I’m gay.
  • I’m afraid to tell gay people that I’m married to a woman.
  • I’m afraid to tell my closest friends that after 30+ years of prayer and struggle, God hasn’t “healed” me of my same-sex attraction.
  • I’m afraid to tell my gay Christian friends that I’m still struggling – really struggling – to reconcile being gay and being a Christian.
  • I’m afraid to tell my online friends, who know my secrets and struggles, my true name.
  • I’m afraid to tell my face-to-face friends, who know my true name, that I’m struggling with all this.
  • And most of all, I’m afraid to tell my wife things that will hurt her.

My wife knew of my attraction to guys from the beginning. And in the early days, I regularly shared with her my ongoing struggle. We both thought that in time God would heal me. With prayer, and spiritual discipline, and maturity, and self-understanding, I would grow past those feelings. And our sex life was good! (A testament to how amazing and how beautiful she is!) But time didn’t bring healing; didn’t bring the so-hoped-for change. And over months and years I found that I couldn’t even face my own failure, let alone burden her with it. So I stopped sharing. Tried to close off that part of myself. And the secrets grew.

But I’ve made some progress. Sometime over the past couple of years (I don’t know exactly when), I found a way to tell myself the truth. My self-narrative shifted, and I stopped telling myself “I’m bisexual,” or “I’m straight, but I struggle with ‘homosexual temptation'” (a phrase that now find unspeakably irritating), or “I’m struggling with same-sex attraction, but I’m trusting God to deliver me.” No. I’m gay. I. AM. GAY. My war with secrets began by telling myself the truth.

Then, a year ago, I told my wife the truth. I told her the painful secrets that had broken our intimacy. Secrets I would have rather kept hidden. Her trust was shattered, her faith shaken. But in an amazing display of love, she still cared about me. Even through the flood of her own pain, she was able to empathize with my hurting. It’s been a hellish year. But we’re in counseling, we’re finding friends we can share with, and most important, we’re talking. Honestly. Fighting against secrets.

Last month, in a blog post, I told my secrets to a Christian friend who has known me from college days. Told her that I’m gay, and that my wife and I are struggling. Another step. Fighting against secrets.

And just last week, I told a new gay Christian friend my true name. Another step in the war on secrets.

I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to hide. I just want to be me. What would it be like, I wonder, to live openly? To not have to be on guard at every moment, lest someone suspect my deep, dark secrets?

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10 comments

  1. Just remember one thing, God made you what you are. You were born with your attraction to the same sex. If God wasn’t cool with it, he wouldn’t make people this way. I’m bi, and have been married to my husband for 20 years. I just recently came out, and it is freeing. But I don’t have all the complications that you do. I pray you find a way to reconcile all the things you have going on, and can find peace. And you aren’t alone, even if you feel you are.

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  2. I always relate to your your posts, this one in particular hit home. Remember, omitting information or keeping secrets does not make you a bad person, it makes you human, I have always thought of it as a reaction to flight or fight impulses that are hard wired in every individual. Thank you for sharing, Good bless.

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    1. Thanks Ray – love your blog too. Raw, transparent, compelling… (readers can check it out at http://rayaguilar.me/ ). Your comment got me thinking:

      “Remember, omitting information or keeping secrets does not make you a bad person, it makes you human…”

      As I reflect on that, I totally agree that keeping secrets isn’t bad in itself – rather just part of the human condition. Who really wants to know all of someone else’s junk? As with many things in life, I suppose, it comes down to a matter of degree… how much do you feel you have to hide? How weighty are those secrets? Not everyone needs to know; but it certainly helps to have even just a few people who do.

      Thanks again Ray – peace to you.

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  3. Oh my gosh, Greg….this post! It resonates so deeply with me. I’ve kept these same secrets and had these same fears. The only difference is that I’ve never been married. But, everything else…..WOW! DO I UNDERSTAND!! Read my reply to your comment on my blog when you can. Email me if you like. There’s a lot more I can share with you about my experience.

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  4. Hey Greg,

    Amazing thoughts. I hope you feel you can be yourself with us. I am struggling with many of the same issues — who do I tell, what to I tell, and most of all, where is it safe to tell it. The gay Christian groups I’ve met are one of the few places I’ve found where I have a glimmer of hope at being who I “really” am (as of I’ll ever really know who that is…. 🙂 ). We are open to doubting — I think that’s part & parcel of this journey. Questioning how the Scriptures should be interpreted belies the question of whether they need to be interpreted at all, i.e., does this whole God thing even exist.

    In any case, I support you along your journey! Please know that I’m open to hearing about any doubts or questions along the way, and I hope I’m not the only one…. 🙂

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  5. Reblogged this on Six Feet Four and commented:
    I love this post! I’ve had so many secrets growing up myself. But this post is spot on about the emotional effects of keeping secrets. The last paragraph struck a very deep chord with me:

    “I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to hide. I just want to be me. What would it be like, to live openly?”

    What a beautiful thought!!

    Like

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