Maintaining Integrity in the Land of Secrets

There are so many way to address this week’s Dungeon Prompt about secrets.  I could talk from a therapy perspective about secrets in the family of origin.  I could talk about confidentiality between therapist and client.  I could talk about gossip.  What I decided to write comes from my own personal life and learning.

Confidentiality in my role as therapist is clear.  My job is to listen to my clients and keep their information confidential.  It is black and white.  There are only a few situations where it would be appropriate and/or necessary to breach confidentiality.

There are many times in my personal life when I ask for confidentiality, or when I am asked by others to keep something confidential.  I honor those confidences but the rules about communication in personal life aren’t as black and white as in a therapy setting.

For most of my adult life I have been in leadership roles.  The settings have varied, e.g. academia, organizations, therapy communities, spiritual communities.  Because I’ve been a leader and because I am a good and safe listener many people talk to me.  I have really liked being “in the know.”  By doing a lot of listening, I can keep current and know what is going on all around me.  I’m sure I have garnered some sense of being important and special by keeping myself in that position.

Being in the know can also cause problems.  I end up with a lot of information that I may or may not want to know.  If I’ve promised confidentiality then in most cases I am stuck with it.  Sometimes I end up feeling either weighed down or pulled from all directions.

In the last few years, I have decreased my over-involvement in almost every aspect of my life.  I decided I don’t have to know everything.  I’m finding there is a lot of relief in being able to say, “Sorry, I’m not part of that loop anymore.”

That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to hear confidences, or talk with and/or support my friends or other members of my various communities.   Of course I am.   But I can be more discriminating.  I can also pay more attention to my own communication and to the types of problems I want to be involved with.

There is a quote that is often attributed to Buddha that says:  “If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.” Bodhipaksa researched that quote and discovered it actually came from a Victorian poem  “Miscellaneous Poems,” by Mary Ann Pietzker, published in 1872.  He said the Buddhist canons actually contain 5 criteria.  The questions monks are meant to ask themselves before they speak are:  “Do I speak at the right time, or not? Do I speak of facts, or not? Do I speak gently or harshly? Do I speak profitable words or not? Do I speak with a kindly heart, or inwardly malicious?”  (From The Patimokkha, Ñanamoli Thera, trans.)

I think deciding when and what to say, and when or what to listen to, will be a lifelong journey.  Sometimes I overshare and then am sorry that I said something.  Sometimes I regret the way I said something.  If I slow down and pay attention to what I say and when I say it, then I am likely to stay in integrity with myself and others.  I will also be more likely to feel good about the personal secrets I share, as well as the ones I listen to.  It is okay for me to take my time so that I make decisions that will be in accordance with my beliefs and values.

Dungeon Prompts: Season 2 Week 11

18 thoughts on “Maintaining Integrity in the Land of Secrets

  1. Thank you for this lovely post. It really spoke to me. The part of “over sharing” especially, and regrets afterward.


  2. Thank you for sharing this blog post. The part I am taking away from this is the part about feeling important for being in the know. In the role i play at work as a manager I can often feel the draw of being in the know. But like you I have learned that being outside of the know can bring a piece of mind and a serenity that only exists from the lack of involvement in “everything.” Thank you.


  3. Thank you for sharing I found it interesting how being in leadership and having everyone confide in you made you feel as in importance etc.

    Your wise to now find the ability to protect yourself in choosing and not overloading yourself it must take some strength to do that.

    I love Buddhist philosophy and the bit about the 5 canons and what you said about how you and many of us present ourselves can be improved if we as you say just slow down and be mindful xxx wonderful reading xxx


    1. It was interesting for me to learn in the process of writing this piece that there are actually 5 criteria in the canon. I love that “Do I speak at the right time or not?” is one of the questions.

      I’m glad you liked the post. Thanks for letting me know.


  4. I have also been the ear lent to others. But I have finally managed to come to a place in my life where I am trusted enough to allow leyway to share their information with others. My friends know I will not keep secrets but that I also don’t have haphazard loose lips. If I share it is because I think it is a piece another needs,and I have learned those that trust me with their truths share them or the go elsewhere. But either way it works. Karuna this was lovely.


    1. Beautifully said. I love this way of looking at it. I suspect there are many who would think this way about me too. Thanks for commenting on the post.


  5. I love this piece and it touches me on many levels. Mostly, in when to speak and how to speak and what is the purpose for my saying this or that. I have put my foot in my mouth royally many times on various committees I have been on…my impatience to see change, my learning to wait for folks to catch up and accept we are a team…my idea is not the only one. Being an extrovert I have found this lesson very very hard and still am practicing …it is a long process but getting a bit better at it. Namaste


    1. Very interesting. I hadn’t thought about the difference between introverts and extroverts. As an introvert, my old pattern was to obsess about what I wanted to say for so long that I lost the opportunity to say it. I also obsessed about whatever I did say, wondering if I had said it wrong. Luckily I almost never do those things anymore but I probably still think too much. The challenge for me is be in mindfulness about what I say or don’t say but not to overly analyze it.


      1. Ah yes, to over analyze it!! I have taken the MyersBrigg test many many times and tried to cheat but it always came out ENFP…however in the past few years I am vacilating between E for extrovert and I for introvert. Perhaps this is my maturity, experience, tiredness of getting my foot out of my mouth..(grins) but I do try to weigh my words more. Mindfulness, yes…I try to practice more what I preach to my callers too.


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