Of Family and Secrets
“Far from being the basis of the good society, the family, with its narrow privacy and tawdry secrets, is the source of all our discontents.” – Edmund Leach
I don`t consider myself a secretive person. I have no problems keeping secrets entrusted to me by others, and I have few of my own. I tend to be an open book, and truly believe that honesty is the best policy in most cases.
I spent some time, a few weekends ago, with several members of my extended family. Why is it that secrecy is so rampant among family? These are the people who are around you for life. Family is supposed to be nurturing, loving, compassionate. Why is it that these are the people we feel the most anxiety around?
I, like many pagans, originally came from a Christian upbringing. I came to realize that much of my identity, self-worth, and spiritual beliefs were tied up in how those around me perceived me (and in my family, that perception was always through a Christian filter.) To this day, my biggest hang-up with most christians is their ability to state that anything that happens to them must be from God, but if it happens to someone else, it’s obviously because they are a sinner. Sorry, I call a very loud B.S. on that one.
This is where secrets generally come from in my family. If one of us does something or has something happen to them (good or bad,) it is generally best to keep it a secret, rather than have the “holier than thou’s” know about it so they can belittle you and make themselves feel superior. The Christian concept of sin is a very slippery slope. Eve made Adam eat the forbidden fruit, so now we are all evil. Well, all except those who are in the right circles, go to the right church, and know how to twist almost every situation into something “from the devil.”
As life carries on, I find I’m much less guarded than I was in my youth.
And I’ll tell you a secret: the less I seem to give a damn about the judgemental people in my life, the less they seem to matter.
Pagans coming out of a Christian background are usually bogged down with guilt and fear. It’s all we were taught growing up. Here’s another secret: guilt and fear are not blessings. They are control mechanisms. Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship or family situation knows first hand that guilt and fear are the tools of the manipulative. Love doesn’t enter that equation. Remember that the next time a Christian tells you god is love, and you are going to hell unless you follow him.
Every family has secrets. Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves whether these secrets are in place due to love, or if they come from a place of guilt, fear, and shame. Who do these secrets serve? Often, we keep secrets from each other because we are afraid of how the other person might respond. Which is worse? Having someone angry with you for a while, or living life as a lie?
This leads me to my last secret for today: A secret only has power for as long as it’s kept. Not much of a secret, I know, but usually the best way to get out of a manipulative situation held over you by someone who is enforcing a secret on you, is to let that secret out.
Here’s an example: a new pagan who is staying in the closet because they come from a devout christian family. Let’s examine this one. Why are they keeping their faith under wraps? Because they fear their family’s reaction. Because they feel guilt for being different. Who is imposing this fear and guilt? The family, whether they realize it or not. How does the new pagan break this cycle of fear? By letting that skeleton out of the closet.
Sure, certain people will be upset that the secret is out. But are they upset due to love? or are they upset because they no longer have a way to manipulate the secret holder? People’s reactions will generally let you in on their secret: They are either pissed with you because you have reclaimed your power from them, or they are indifferent to the secret because they truly love you. People who really love you won’t hold a secret over your head. They will take the good with the bad, and keep on loving you anyways.