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Holding Secrets, Holding Sacred

March 11, 2014
Post card received by Post Secret, an online blog that people send anonymous post cards to with their secrets. (postsecret.com)

Post card received by Post Secret, an online blog that people send anonymous post cards to with their secrets. (postsecret.com)

People tell me things, deep, painful, secret things. It’s part of the work of chaplains, why we exist. We are the conduit of their unburdening. This is a beautiful function of the human connection. Can you imagine it: healing a little just by sharing? How marvelous! We do it all the time, every day. When we tell our boyfriend how our day was, or complain to our best friend about our boss, we are healing through sharing through connection. We need each other to witness our lives and we witness for others. But because this is such a powerful need, we are sometimes afraid to share and afraid to witness the deep, hard, suffering parts. We don’t want to risk the connection. These are the burdens we keep and carry as secrets. We bottle them up inside. Or we bring them to chaplains and healers.

I didn’t understand sacred until this. Places were beautiful, even glorious, but not sacred. Objects were important, treasured, but not sacred. Ideas certainly were always worth arguing over, never sacred. But this, the connection, the healing, the unburdening, and sharing in the secret sufferings of others – this is sacred.  To enter into and be with someone in their suffering, to see their burden, share their stories, and accept as a sacred blessing the deep, painful, secret moments of their lives, it is a holy thing. With all the suffering and darkness, also comes the light. Our greatest pains come wrapped in layers of hope. We hoped for love, but found rejection. We hoped for life, but found death. We hoped for success, but found failure. The flame dims to a flickering candle, but does not die. As we spin meaning from the story, the hope rekindles in a new way. To share in this is sacred beyond words.

My teachers tried to prepare me. They gave me knowledge and skills and modeled the practice. They may even have tried to convey this in words, but I did not know it until now. How can you tell a person who holds so little sacred that someday she would find her holy grail? How can you tell a person who has so often felt disconnected from others that someday she would honor connection above all things? How can you tell a person that her hope will come from stories of suffering? How can you tell a person who believes only in what she can see, touch, and reason for herself that the meaning others make from their own experiences will become more precious than all her hard-won knowledge? And that all these things she would value above the most holy temple, sacred relic, or profound scripture?

Secrets have a burden. Someone leaves my office lighter, but I go home a little heavier. Their secret is now my secret, their darkness is my darkness, their suffering is my suffering. This is the key to the trust and empathy necessary for unburdening. No one will share something if it will be used as a weapon against them. It is a burden I accept willingly because it does not end with me. My secret becomes the secret of another chaplain. They honor the trust of all my shared stories just as they honor my story, because they have become one and the same. I walk away lighter. With every link in the chain, the burden becomes lighter until it is no burden at all. Through this connection, humanity can share any load. We don’t always believe it, which is why our pains become our secrets, even though our secrets bring us pain. When we share that secret, it becomes sacred, transforming from pain into hope.

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73 Comments leave one →
  1. Cassandra permalink
    March 11, 2014 10:49 pm

    That was gorgeous. Been reading your blog for a whole and appreciate your writing; THIS was lovely. Truly.

  2. March 14, 2014 8:29 am

    I like what you said. A dark secret shared transforms from pain into hope. I think it also gives us freedom as well. The truth sets us free after all :)

  3. March 14, 2014 8:30 am

    Reblogged this on heavywhalley.

  4. March 14, 2014 8:41 am

    I don’t really have words for how beautiful this is. Thank you!

  5. March 14, 2014 8:44 am

    Beautifully expressed. Secrets held against one make that one a prisoner. Thank you for listening as people share their deepest secret pains, so their unburdened hearts can hear the truth that sets them free.

  6. March 14, 2014 9:00 am

    I empathize for I too have secrets. Those secrets will go to my grave for I will never reveal them. It is better that they be buried and never spoken of.

  7. March 14, 2014 9:00 am

    No matter how painful, traumatising or hurtful an experience was there will always be a deep blessing lying underneath the surface, sometimes it takes some time for us to heal before we can see the blessing and sometimes the blessing pops up straight away, that’s the magical balance of life and the universe

  8. March 14, 2014 9:00 am

    Reblogged this on julietteventer2014 and commented:
    No matter how painful, traumatising or hurtful an experience was there will always be a deep blessing lying underneath the surface, sometimes it takes some time for us to heal before we can see the blessing and sometimes the blessing pops up straight away, that’s the magical balance of life and the universe

  9. March 14, 2014 9:18 am

    It is perhaps the most beautiful gift, to hold another’s worries, fears, or hopes in a place of trust and respect without judgment; faith as an act of love and kindness. Lovely!

  10. March 14, 2014 9:24 am

    Reblogged this on Fort Pelham Farm and commented:
    Read this, it’s beautiful and timely.

  11. March 14, 2014 10:36 am

    Very thorough and great layout. Secrets really are a burden and we must tread lightly when they are shared with us.

  12. March 14, 2014 12:12 pm

    The way you expressed this is just awesome. :)

  13. March 14, 2014 2:33 pm

    This is very true. secrets eat you from the inside out, and the only way to stop it, is to share it

  14. March 14, 2014 4:57 pm

    Such a great post.. you have a great way of expressing yourself through writing.

  15. March 14, 2014 6:23 pm

    Reblogged this on Souvenirs!! — by gabri pardo a and commented:
    Holding

  16. March 14, 2014 7:08 pm

    So, so beautifully written. Just beautiful. Oh, and right.

  17. March 14, 2014 7:15 pm

    Yes. Thank you for this.

  18. March 14, 2014 7:16 pm

    Reblogged this on A View from T. Ridge.

  19. March 14, 2014 8:00 pm

    Reblogged this on Soham's Blog.

  20. March 14, 2014 8:42 pm

    Reblogged this on beautifulbipolar1.

  21. March 14, 2014 8:43 pm

    I think we all hold secrets thank you for sharing

  22. March 14, 2014 9:30 pm

    This meant a lot to me. I’ve recently realized that I don’t share anything with anyone. Even my best friends, I don’t share everything with because I don’t want to give anyone any material to use against me, but this is actually something I’m trying to work on. And like you said, all these secrets do burden me. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to convince myself to tell them things I’ve kept to myself for years, but the longer I wait, the harder it is to tell them, but I feel like it should be the opposite. I think I’ve got so good at keeping my own secrets, that I’ll never reveal them, but we’ll see.

  23. March 14, 2014 9:46 pm

    Reblogged this on But Be Doers, and Not Hearers Only.

  24. March 15, 2014 4:01 am

    Reblogged this on TIME CAPSULE.

  25. March 15, 2014 4:22 am

    Powerful words. I too am scared of sharing for worrying it will be used against me or worse-shared with someone that shouldn’t know. Thank you for sharing your words. It’s amazing how similar we all are and we don’t even know it.

  26. March 15, 2014 6:42 am

    Reblogged this on Tarek Elbakry's Blog.

  27. March 15, 2014 7:42 am

    Thank you to everyone for your kind words and sharing your experiences of secrets. It would be wonderful if we all had at least one person in our lives with whom we could share our deepest secrets, but that’s not always the case. Safety and trust are sometimes hard to find. I think we used to have more of it when people lived in closer communities. Now we have to pay a therapist for it. This is why I became a chaplain and why my classmates are becoming chaplains. We see the need in the world and want to rise to meet it. Being a chaplain (or therapist) is about more than holding secrets, but that’s a big part of it. If not for the professional ethics of confidentiality and privacy, we would be unable to do our work because we would not be safe or trustworthy, either. Do you have anyone like that in your lives?

  28. March 15, 2014 7:47 am

    Thank you. For taking this work seriously, for caring enough to burden yourself and other with dark secrets no one wants to hold. I appreciated your piece.

    -Valentine
    Flux: Encountering Adulthood
    http://www.fluxforum.com

  29. March 15, 2014 10:48 am

    Wow. I love the image of each story becoming a link in a chain of burdens, made lighter by the sharing. Shared pain truly is part of the sacred.

  30. March 15, 2014 12:30 pm

    Wow, deep! Well thought out and well written. I quite enjoyed that and, I agree. So true…sharing is easy. However, sharing with someone that wont abuse your secrets is key. What do you think?

  31. March 15, 2014 12:33 pm

    I dont think people have a problem sharing, I think they have issue finding someone to share with. You love yourself because you can see the true you in a mirror. Well, similarly, people love themselves and want to see the reflection of the love they exude in another. Only then can people trust that you wont abuse them and can understand them without judgement or malicious intent. What do you think? Let me shut up, I could keep going.

  32. March 15, 2014 12:46 pm

    Reblogged this on HOW TO BENEFIT ONLINE and commented:
    Just great….

  33. March 15, 2014 1:02 pm

    I really like the picture.:)

  34. March 15, 2014 1:13 pm

    There was so much in this post that resonated with me – thank you for sharing your thoughts so beautifully. In the work I do I am often with people in their darkest moments, but when we are able to connect with one another, I swear you can feel a bit of lightness enter the space. It’s definitely a balancing act, though, which you articulated so well.

  35. March 15, 2014 3:06 pm

    Reblogged this on Fashion.

  36. March 15, 2014 5:13 pm

    This is beautiful. As someone who kept a secret for many years, I am grateful to those who have listened and lightened the load I was carrying alone. I’m healing slowly and realizing that people still love you, and maybe love you even more, when you reveal your truths.

  37. March 15, 2014 7:44 pm

    Using pain and suffering as a point from which to reach out and heal others is deeply humane and says so much about you as a person. You are a Bodhisattva. Peace and love.

  38. March 15, 2014 8:09 pm

    Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, from any one of us you have listened to. I don’t know you but you have made a difference in the life of someone like me I am certain. Thank you for taking the time to hear what was said (and not said) and to share the burden of that secret.

  39. March 15, 2014 11:59 pm

    Reblogged this on Marie Abanga's Blog and commented:
    I stumbled on this post when visiting the freshly pressed section of wordpress. I am glad I found it and it is most timely to me in particular. I took the decision to publish all my ‘secrets’ in a book title My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption. Yes, I didn’t want to carry them anymore and felt I would share them with the world and not just a priest, chaplain or whoever! There is such liberation in that and I now feel ‘free’ to help others in their ‘secret journeys’!

  40. March 16, 2014 1:26 am

    I’m new here and this is perhaps the best first post I could’ve read It’s beautiful.

  41. March 16, 2014 2:52 am

    Reblogged this on insomniaandguitar's Blog and commented:
    This is beautiful.

  42. March 16, 2014 5:50 am

    Reblogged this on Temesgen desalegn website.

  43. March 16, 2014 6:50 am

    Reblogged this on dliwcanis.

  44. March 16, 2014 7:54 am

    Reblogged this on iyadn and commented:
    Great make believe story.

  45. March 16, 2014 9:07 am

    Beautifully written. I enjoyed this immensely!

  46. March 16, 2014 10:32 am

    Reblogged this on peejaaynation's Blog.

  47. March 16, 2014 10:56 am

    Thank you for sharing this. Just stopped by, I have to share this with my friend.

  48. March 16, 2014 1:45 pm

    Unfortunately secrets also become some peoples’ identities, because it’s the only thing they have to hold onto. Beautiful, poetic, post.

  49. March 16, 2014 2:50 pm

    So very true. As a nurse, I also am honored to be the conduit for connections, secrets and past memories. Empathy is an amazing connection…feeling sorry for someone is far different. Here’s an amazing quote: “In a three-to-five minute conversation with strangers, there are certain prompts which tend to uncover the most meaningful events in a person’s life. Our greatest stories tend to be coupled with a very strong emotion– whether that be happiness, fear, or sadness. ” ~ Brandon Stanton, Photographer, Humans of New York

  50. March 16, 2014 9:13 pm

    Sharing is not easy. People don’t want any random person knowing their deepest darkest secret. It is really remarkable that you are one of those who are there to listen, to understand. And before I read your post I always had this question, where would people of your profession go when they want to talk .
    I look forward to whatever you are going to write next.

  51. March 17, 2014 3:52 am

    Reblogged this on My Life.

  52. March 17, 2014 6:08 am

    This is the best take on secrets I’ve ever read. As someone who has had many secrets and eventually crumbled under them, I understand the burden you’re talking about. I’ve also experienced the healing that come from sharing our stories and realizing we’re not alone. It deepens our connection to each other. Thank you for sharing your insight.

  53. March 17, 2014 8:34 am

    Reblogged this on NiDuan's View 倪端話端倪.

  54. janetteclark007 permalink
    March 17, 2014 12:42 pm

    Very beautifully written

  55. janetteclark007 permalink
    March 17, 2014 12:43 pm

    Reblogged this on janetteclark007 and commented:
    Lovely

  56. janetteclark007 permalink
    March 17, 2014 12:43 pm

    Reblogged this on janetteclark007 and commented:
    Lovely

  57. March 18, 2014 6:25 am

    Reblogged this on mintvalf.

  58. March 18, 2014 5:52 pm

    Loved the post, very true!

  59. March 18, 2014 6:07 pm

    Reblogged this on Simply Perfectly Imperfect .

  60. March 18, 2014 9:44 pm

    “Someone leaves my office lighter, but I go home a little heavier.” This is how I feel.. and it becomes a burden on me.. and I feel guilty for feeling that way because I haven’t turned my pain into hope and so it all just piles up onto me. Good to know people understand x

  61. March 19, 2014 1:27 pm

    simply beautiful! and so true.

  62. March 19, 2014 2:30 pm

    This post resonated with me because I told the whole world my family secret in October 2013 when I published my book Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father. At seventy-one years old, I was finally liberated from the shackles of the family’s alcoholism secret. The only way to truly be free is to expose the darkness. That light will encourage others.

  63. March 25, 2014 9:19 am

    I like this. This is why I blog then, to spread my secrets thin, till they are no more. Yeah Meghan

  64. March 26, 2014 9:33 pm

    Reblogged this on GurlTalkTvShow and commented:
    I like this post . I feel there are many who should read this piece, Amaris

  65. March 27, 2014 12:51 pm

    Post Secret is such a powerful but lovely idea. Secrets are such an interesting topic. Congratulations on making the freshly pressed spotlight

  66. March 28, 2014 4:53 am

    amazing .just love this

  67. March 29, 2014 10:27 am

    this happen

  68. April 11, 2014 6:00 pm

    Reblogged this on Tumbleweed~gypsy.

  69. April 14, 2014 3:38 pm

    Reblogged this on rbhavsar and commented:
    We thrive in togetherness. It is only human

  70. April 17, 2014 11:17 am

    Reblogged this on EXPERIA.

  71. May 16, 2014 3:34 pm

    Reblogged this on Counseling TidBits.

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