A great friend recently posed the question, what kind of community did I come from. I believe that your first community is your family. When I think of my family and what kind of community they have cultivated I know that they are a community of good people. They are genuinely good. They worked. They took care of their families as best they could. They treated people with respect. They followed rules. They are funny! They are fun. They made people feel good in their presence. They loved to their fullest capabilities. Now with any family we’ve got a couple of outliers but overall I don’t think most would describe the vast majority of my folks as nothing less than good. If you were ever given the chance to see what dwells behind all of that goodness there are also a lot of secrets built into the foundation of my community. They.... We hold our secrets close. In order to make others feel good about us, we keep secrets about our own feelings and emotions. We take what is offered without asking for what we truly want. To make ourselves feel good by denying our own truths. Often times our secrets are rooted in a shame that caused us emotional pain. We turn those experiences into secrets that we carry and guard closely; keeping it from the sight, the judgement and the consequences of others. This shame may have come from a decision that didn’t work out the way they had hoped it would. Perhaps it comes from the steps we never took towards our goals. The steps we never took out of chaos. The relationships we wish we would have performed differently in. Our consequence for those errors becoming a new secret that we pin to the back of our hearts to keep it from being exposed.
I cannot recall a specific moment when I realized these things about my first community because I feel like it’s always been there; inside of me. The goodness and the secrecy have become a source of pride in myself. I am proud of coming from such good people. Their/our goodness cannot be challenged because I know from my own sacrifices how much being good costs and how you have to be willing and prepared to pay for it. I also know how hard it is to keep a secret and how much it costs to carry your secrets and those of the ones that you love most. Secrets are heavy. They only survive and thrive in dark spaces. They are barbed with shame, and fear and sorrow and anxiety. The truth is always lurking about looking for an opportunity to expose them to the light and kill them. The fear is that the truth can and will expose and kill you too!
Outside of the community I was born into; I have attracted my own community of people who value my goodness. We nurture, protect and even defend one another if/when necessary. We acknowledge, affirm and uplift the best parts of who we are because we all value good things and good people. I have also attracted friends who place a high value on their secrets; and the community is expected to keep any secret that might slip out in moments of surrender. We call this being ride or dies for one other. Holding each other down. Loyalty. “Everybody doesn’t need to know our business!” And If I trust you enough to let you see what I have worked so hard to keep from others; you then become responsible for carrying whatever I give you; alone; no matter how heavy it becomes for you.
With secrecy in our foundation, our relationships have boundaries as well as limitations. There are places and spaces in our community that we may never travel to. Areas of support and deep love that we don’t allow ourselves to have access to because protecting our secrets means more to us than the chance to love, nurture and trust each other at new levels. Just as goodness has a cost, so does secrecy.
I realize now that I carried the belief that in order to preserve my goodness, I had to protect my secrets. With my life’s mistakes and missteps laid bare in the sunlight, someone could say “See, he isn’t as good as he wants us to think he is! We see it now! That’s the real him!” This has been my fear. The YouTube sensation Funky Dineva often says “never let anyone else spray you with your own tea” This means do not allow someone else to uncover a secret about you that they can use against you. Tell your own truth. Something that my coaching clients have often heard me say is that everything that happens to you, happens for you. And when you share the truth of your experiences you can free yourself and someone else of their own burdens and shame. Revealing the secret does not expose you for what you are not; it only shows what it took to become who you are. And when you can let go of the shame, embarrassment, sorrow and anxiety the secret transforms into power that propels you forward in your journey. Once pinned to the back of your heart it is able to break down and fertilize the goodness within. The real you gets to live and love in the light.
Questions to reflect on:
How do you define community?
What is in the foundation of your community?
How does your community serve you and how do you serve it?
Do you keep secrets? If so, how have secrets helped or hindered you along your journey?
If your secrets do not serve you well, what are you willing to do to free yourself?