Can you keep a secret? How many times have you heard those five awful words? I say 'awful' because those five simple words have the power to put enormous stress into relationships, increase anxiety, and mess with people's demeanors and their ability to trust.
There are different kinds of secrets; some good, some not so good. There are the secrets like 'will you keep Billy's party a secret until next Friday so we can surprise him?' Those secrets are harmless and worth the temporary deceit. There are harder secrets like sharing a confidence with someone who is being verbally or physically abused. They ask you not to tell anyone because they are afraid of their well being as well as yours, yet they NEED someone they can confide in. Hopefully being there for them as a support system will give them the ability to gain clarity and feel safe about making a plan to get out of the abusive relationship. Sharing a secret like this needs to come with understood boundaries though. You will keep their secret 'temporarily' as a show of support UNTIL they can resolve the issue themselves, however IF you feel the need to step in and share the secret in order to protect them then you will. They will be stronger for it if they can be the one to reveal the truth with you by their side.
Then there are secrets that, in my opinion, are simply NOT okay. The secrets that are harmful to relationships and make it difficult to be able to trust and believe. It's never good when someone starts a conversation with, 'I don't want (fill in the blank) to know this, BUT ...' or 'I don't want to tell (fill in the blank) this because I know they'll have their feelings hurt or they'll misunderstand.' IF a person begins their conversation with you in this way STOP and see the warning signs. You are about to hear gossip. You are about to be pitted against someone else, whether you approve or not, because this person doesn't want to give you a choice. I know people like this and deal with them every day. When they start a sentence with, 'I shouldn't say anything ...' I immediately stop them and say, 'Then don't. If you don't want them to know, do not tell me. Don't put me in a position I don't want to be in.' If the sentence starts in a different way such as, '(fill in the blank) doesn't want you to know this, BUT ...' I stop them before they can go any further and say, 'Then don't tell me. If they want me to know something it's up to them to tell me, not you. I don't want to know.'
Unfortunately some people thrive on secrets; on sharing them AND being the recipients. Though many don't seem to fully comprehend the concept. Secrets are not to be shared; hence they are a 'secret'. How do we handle those who behave like a kid in a candy store when they have a secret and are about to burst because they just can't hold it in? How do we reign them back in to focus on the part where they gave someone their 'word' that they wouldn't tell? How do we re-enforce the need for keeping our word, maintaining our integrity, and being worthy of people's trust?
I don't pretend to have the answers. I am still a work in progress, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.