Secrets have been on my mind lately. Salvation in many ways is contingent upon giving up our secrets. I don’t mean so much the secrets we keep from one another – though those need to be looked at, too – but the secrets that we keep from God.
We tend to deal with our secrets one by one. Each has a different form and seems to be about a different issue. We are ashamed of this, embarrassed about that. In that context, it makes sense to approach them singly. This is why therapists say things like, “let’s talk about your father.” Or “let’s look at that Thanksgiving dinner where everyone was drunk and angry.”
That’s okay. In some respects, it’s necessary. So long as we are invested in the separate form of our secrets, tackling them individually – on their apparent terms – is probably the best way to go.
But a time comes when we have to see that our secrets are really just manifestations of one problem: our guilt. Sooner or later we are going to have to look at that. Until we do, we are always going to have secrets – sexual secrets, violent secrets, family secrets . . .
All of them, regardless of their form, represent our guilt at having separated from God. And that guilt is a nasty and powerful force in our lives. In fact, that’s why we have secrets – it’s actually easier to deal with them than with the guilt that ravages us at the deepest levels.
The darkest of your hidden cornerstones holds your belief in guilt from your awareness. For in that dark and secret place is the realization that you have betrayed God’s Son by condemning him to death. You do not even suspect this murderous but insane idea lies hidden there, for the ego’s destructive urge is so intense that nothing short of the crucifixion of God’s Son can ultimately satisfy it (T-13.II.3:1-3).
Who wants to see that? Who wants to acknowledge that buried within them is the desire to crucify their brothers and sisters?
It is very hard to really get a handle on this guilt. We are very resistant to it, preferring to think of ourselves as good and honest – if imperfect – souls who are trying to get better and doing a pretty good job of it, to boot. It’s comforting to think that way. In general, it allows us not to face the internal horror show that keeps us from God – or to pay it only the briefest lip service. It’s like saying we’ll get to it tomorrow but tomorrow never comes.
So what can we do? One thing we can do is make friends with our secrets. We can start to be honest with ourselves.
For example, every time I walk in a classroom I face about twenty young people. They are human and so am I, and so some of them I like a lot and some of them I don’t. That’s a fact. Can I be honest about it? Can I face the fact that I don’t love all God’s children equally?
We all have demons or shadows or issues – those problems that we don’t like to look at. We want to sleep with someone we aren’t married to. We want to sneak the BBQ potato chips after everyone’s in bed. We hoard money. We don’t vote. At the level of form, it’s different for all of us.
But when we look at them – when we offer them up to be healed for us – we begin to see that our secrets are like weeds. You get rid of one and another springs up in its place. Why is that? When can we catch a break?
It is the guilt that lies beneath – mostly unseen, mostly unrecognized – that gives rise to our secrets.
What happens is that we begin to see the secrets as stand-ins for our guilt. And then the forgiveness begins in earnest, because we are no longer dealing with the form of the secret, but with its content, which is always guilt.
Does that make sense? First we ignore our secrets. Then – slowly and inelegantly, perhaps – we begin to give attention to them. Then we learn that they are proxies for guilt. Then we begin to use them to forgive the guilt. The secret comes up – the beautiful woman, the chance to cheat on our taxes, the twenty dollar bill somebody drops, whatever – and we see it for what it is in Truth: yet another opportunity to forgive our guilt. It doesn’t matter so much what we do with the particulars. What matters is that we see the guilt beyond the secret.
This is the means by which we are liberated to remember again our Source.
Let in the light, and you will look upon no obstacle to what He wills for you. Open your secrets to His kindly light, and see how bright this light still shines in you (W-pI.99.8:3-4).
So it is hard work but ultimately it is fruitful work.It is certainly necessary if our aim is salvation. Ultimately it is what allows us to return Home after such a long and lonely sojourn through a dream of brokenness.