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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

“No” Is Not Always the Final Answer

There are some lessons of life that run against logic, yet reward the heart bold enough to question the questionable, challenge the status quo, or anticipate the unpredicted.

Some are by personality this type of person. They may get into trouble frequently, even appearing in some cases as outcasts. Their problem is they question the wrong things, challenge in the wrong ways, or anticipate at the wrong time.

If we are to believe there is always a “Yes” answer upon an initial “No,” we need to adopt an approach that caters for the risk of questioning the right thing, challenging in the right way, and anticipating the right time.

In other words, what we must believe is that there is a way through present and future difficulties even if we cannot see it now.

A Lesson from Real Life

We see this sort of example more than we realise. During the shooting of the movie, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2010), there were dozens of challenges encountered by the production company and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City, that seemed impossible on the surface. These involved scheduling problems, safety concerns, and other access issues in shooting a large-scale motion picture project in a live transportation environment.

The personality of some of the production staff wasn’t necessarily don’t-take-no-for-an-answer, but instead find-a-way-to-do-it that achieves both organisations’ objectives.

Consequently, they didn’t find themselves so much at loggerheads with the MTA, compromising the project because of frayed relationships, since they demonstrated their desire for interdependence. Achieving the total shoot could not occur unless for complete and total cooperation of both parties.

Put plainly, they were rewarded by having a don’t-give-up and a smile-at-all-times attitude. It was not a take-no-prisoners approach; rather it was a let’s-achieve-the-impossible-together approach.

Transforming “No” into “Yes”

This was our initial idea: to find a way through the present difficulties or future challenges that seemed, on the surface, impossible for workability.

As humans we are conditioned to accept “No” answers. Indeed, society rewards the obedient; those who do not rock the boat. But sometimes, our reward is not gained because of that obedience—times like this we don’t risk when we should.

We need to learn when enterprise will get us further; when compromise undermines dignity; when playing courage to defy just might be the trick.

It is a core morality that underpins the motive to question, challenge, and anticipate appropriately.

If it is justice or wisdom or some other underlying virtue driving the non-compliance, it just might be that tables can be turned, and a sensible review of the situation at hand might be mandated.

We should do the right things, and do things for the right reasons. When it seems there is no way to do the right thing, the way of question and challenge opens up. That “No” could invariably become a “Yes.”

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The 3 Imperatives of Love

Everyone who’s even vaguely interested in life is after the key to it. And even though ‘the secret’ is easy to understand, it’s correspondingly difficult to apply. It’s as simple as this: love God, accept ourselves, and be gracious to all others.

That’s wisdom in a nutshell.

But we would be remiss to dismiss school at this point having not understood the enormous complexities involved in simply practising love.

It might seem easy to describe loving God, ourselves, and others as simply acting in love; but realistically, most people will still be scratching their heads about what that actually looks like.

Loving God

Central as the most important thing we can and should do is love God. But just how do we do that? In today’s distractive and noisy world it may not be as much about actually worshipping God as it might be about watching what we might be susceptible of worshipping otherwise.

In other words, loving God is perhaps as simple as ordering our other devotions, and keeping in check the passions that might be opposed to God. That done, the positive action of worshipping God by being in constant communion with the Holy Spirit is what’s in range.

Accepting Ourselves

Surprisingly, most of the basic problems we have in life emanate from the poor relationship we have with ourselves. Most of those problems came because of our development, and some of them came to us even before we were born. Accepting ourselves is somehow an incredibly difficult process.

Of course, accepting ourselves is a double-edged sword. Some things we cannot accept no matter how hard we try. We feel determined to change some things, and because we have changed some things our confidence has surged. So, accepting ourselves is sometimes about changing ourselves first.

But ultimately, we do need to come to a landing regarding acceptance for who we actually are.

Being Gracious To All Others

This is where we all come unstuck. Because we are all emotional beings, sensitive to the partialities of others, we are all prone to being hurt and, therefore, to hurting others because of our reactions.

Understanding this is the key. When we are expectant of hurts—for they will come—we empower the awareness of our higher minds. As the inbounding hurt arrives we are then able to pause just long enough to prevent a reptilian response—that is the flash of reaction that just initiates regret.

When we understand that others are just as easily hurt as we are—and that we have more in common with others than we realise—it’s easier to be gracious. Besides, what a blessing it is, personally, to prefer empathy as the mode for considering others; trying to understand the challenges of other people can only help us love them better, and it affirms us as well.


For all the problems we have making life work, fitting in with the world, and feeling comfortable in our own skin, and even enjoying a modicum of success along the way, we can distil these down to love.

Our life problems are based in maladaptive relationships. Faulty concepts of God, struggles with our own identities, and conflict in our other relationships; these are what makes life hard.

Focusing on love—studying it, meditating over it, and applying it; never giving up—is the simplest and most effective personal vision and mission. This alone will deliver our best chance at truly enjoying life.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Waiting Out the Pain of Conflict

There are times of conflict that lay, for periods—a day, a week, longer in some cases, and so on—in abeyance. The pain is excruciating and all we can do is seek to rationalise the dissonance. How do we successfully wait out the pain of conflict?

Conflict is a strange thing in that what we said at the time—or what they said—made sense to us (or them) in that situation. We rationalised it in the moment. The hurt that spewed out of our mouths, or theirs, or both of ours, came from an irrational mind that was neither reasonable nor loving at the time. The heart beneath came upon vulnerable, rocky ground.

1. Accepting the Status Quo

We cannot do anything about the conflict, bringing it around to a positive outcome, unless we first accept the status quo—where we’re at. This often requires one of two things; perhaps both. First, we must more or less completely understand their situation, which involves the skills and compassion of empathy unusual to the vast majority of us. All it takes is humility, but when we find ourselves at conflict humility can be scant.

Second, we can acknowledge our part in conflict in complete truth, and even add some interest—which means we own just a little bit more of the conflict than we are responsible for. (Of course, this all depends on who we are dealing with; if trust is low and they are unlikely to reciprocate we just own what is ours or what we contributed to the conflict.)

Now, it may take some serious reflection to get to a point where either first or second (or both) options present viably.

Hence how important waiting out the pain of conflict is. If we don’t first accept the status quo we might exacerbate the conflict and progress negatively.

2. Enter into Negotiation

When a full acceptance of the status quo has been achieved, and this may take some time, we have waited out long enough. Conflicts don’t necessarily get better the longer we are in conflict—‘time heals all wounds’ may be a fallacy in many intents of purpose. Conflicts don’t get better, and trust is not repaired or grown, unless there is a meeting of minds.

Negotiation is about facilitating a meeting of minds.

At some point we must be prepared to enter negotiation for the healing of the relationship, if it is important to us.

Waiting out the pain of conflict has its purpose in one thing alone. This is for the preparation of healing: for reflection and for opportunities of time that transform the dispositions of mood: ours and theirs. Waiting out the pain of conflict is only necessary until we are ready to enter negotiation—for the re-railing of the relationship.


Waiting out the pain of conflict is the wisdom of patience, the courage of honesty to reflect in humility, and the vision of unity: bringing back to peace the relationship in turmoil.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Struggling to Love Because of Guilt?

Human beings do things because they want to do them; introduce the concept of guilt — of external need to do the thing — then healthy desire goes out the window. We struggle when there’s external compulsion to do things.

Extrinsic motivation is unsustainable and, depending on our cultural bias, it can rebound horribly.

One of the biggest cons of the enemy is to inflict guilt on us — whether via ourselves or through others — convincing us to do things we don’t want to do, when we have a choice in the matter. The outcome is never a blessed result, even if it works out okay.

Anatomy of the Threat

Christian people, and those aligning with Christian ideals, must be especially careful of the propensity to say yes beyond the discerned will of God or the determined needs of the situation.

Telemarketers and most salespeople are skilled in the ‘art’ of persuasion and their abilities to negotiate, using guilt if necessary, give them reliable results. They merely utilise common attributes of human psychology, but for evil, unloving purposes.

Some people and situations, likewise, produce for us stimuli that’s designed to coerce us into making certain decisions — those we’d not normally make if they were our choice.

So, the threat is a prevalent one. It invades our daily lives more than we realise. To live free lives we must accord ourselves the freedom of escape from such guilt.

Rejecting the Guilt-Ridden Advances of the Enemy

It’s always the enemy that’s behind coercion when guilt is the chief weapon used.

This enemy is identified as the devil that wants us oppressed by our own minds.

Guilt is a veneer; a fabrication trying — and usually succeeding — to get us to do things via unloving ways, for unloving reasons, by holding “love” as the subject for ransom.

Guilt is saying, “Do this thing this wrong way, but it will work out, because it’s for love.”

But love doesn’t work that way. Love is not simply an outcome — it’s also the means to the outcome. Guilt has no part in it. Indeed, love is most action-oriented.


The end of the matter of this discussion is don’t fall for guilt — the masterstroke of a cunning enemy.

We best stand our ground and do things because they’re right. We don’t gain, nobody does, in doing things out of guilt to achieve a loving result. These plans commonly backfire.

Garner love to do this thing. If there’s no love, reject point blank guilt’s advance.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crossing the Room

People leave good workplaces because they can’t reconcile their relationships. It’s just as common an issue in marriages that end in divorce. As far as East is to West, as Rudyard Kipling would put it, never the twain shall meet. But if one is prepared to cross the room, there may be fresh hope to settle conflict.

It’s even more common that we exist in conflict. That is, the conflict prevails; it never ultimately gets sorted out. We compromise on our integrity, and so do they. The result is a shallow level of intimacy which, in effect, means low trust and shaky levels of respect. Now a veiled trust and respect has become a foil with which we hide behind, pretending “all’s good,” when clearly it isn’t.

Crossing the room may, again, be our answer.


One person’s truth,

Is another’s pure fable,

Between them exists a sleuth,

To combine them we’re unable.

Until the two meet,

With ideas to redress,

The conflict cannot be beat,

Views are polarised—confess!

Then they come together,

Agendas off the table,

Dealing with stormy weather,

Ending only when it’s stable.

Taking turns in the other’s shoes,

Is bound to help assist,

Understanding will help defuse,

Enabling both to persist.

A listening ear, a caring heart,

Mind’s made aware,

A better place to start,

One with genuine care.

Now that it is started,

A better footing now,

Nobody’s to be outsmarted,

Grace we must allow.


We’ve all heard it said it takes two to tango. If one person involved in the conflict, however, can make the bold move to cross the floor, sacrificing their advantage, especially if it occurs early enough, the other person may likely respond in kind. This is particularly the case when the other person trusts the initiator’s integrity.

The Extravagant Latitude of Grace

The last line of the sixth stanza of the poem above is the eternal answer for building trust in the midst of continual, or even occasional, conflict.

When we are on an equal footing we are reticent to see things go backwards; maintaining the positive relationship is harder than we think. If we need to extend the latitude of grace, we also need to bear up for inevitable future conflict—all relationships endure conflict. The best relationships still have conflict; indeed, they are characterised by how well they ratify their issues.

Conflict presents us with the opportunity to deepen trust and, equally, the threat that trust will be damaged if we don’t handle the conflict well enough. Provided there is a semblance of valued truth in the relationship, it generally comes down to grace—being prepared to extend an olive branch... yes, again and again; as necessary.

Grace is the gift of God to those blessed, such that they might extend it to others. This is one of the most visible ways God’s name is glorified.

The extravagant latitude of grace is the miraculous missing link of conflict resolution. Can we cross the room? God thinks we can.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Credit: Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When to Reasonably Worry?

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” ~Matthew 6:34 (NRSV).

There is a common cost to love. For our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers, and our endeared friends there is a burden; a reasonable worry. It is a fallacy, and a biblical false teaching, to reject this form of worry. A cost of love is the cost of life.

We must believe that to be appropriately concerned for our loved ones is God’s will.

Occasionally, this will mean our thinking will be preoccupied, our feelings estranged to sense, and our actions invoking courage and grappling with, and resisting, fear.

Reasonable Worry Clarified

The sort of worry that Jesus referred to when preaching the Sermon on the Mount—that quoted above—is perhaps a more general portion of worry related to our health, what we’ll eat, how long we’ll live, and what we’ll wear. There are many things we are tempted to worry about that have little bearing on life or love.

Reasonable worry ought to be confined to life and love.

To worry about those things that are within our control, instead of just doing them, seems to be a waste of emotional energy.

Interestingly, those things that are out of our control—things that are usually related to either life or love—are actually valid things to be concerned about. But we convert these worries into prayers. We convert our concern into faith, which is always expressed in action.

Being ‘Comfortably’ Worried

We can expect that a level of actionable worry—the concern of familial advocacy—is pleasing to God. We have the capacity for it. We can deal with a certain amount of stress.

The Lord has given us charge over these matters. To be ambivalent about familial issues, pretending to or refusing to be concerned sufficiently enough, would be an abomination. Perhaps there are too many parents, adult children, or close friends that brush off concern because it’s not ‘cool’, or they fear their concerns might be ridiculed. But a genuine concern about loved ones is just an honest expression of love.

We can feel vindicated, so far as our obedience to God’s will is concerned, when we do something about our concerns or otherwise leave them alone if we can’t.

‘Concern’ Explored

Concern is like monitoring a car’s fuel or temperature gauge. Monitoring, of itself, needn’t necessitate worry; we are just keeping an eye on things. When indications cause an elevated level of concern, then we act if we can. There is always something we can do, even if it’s just to express our concern in love.

Reasonable worry is an actionable level of concern; the motivation of love, inspired by the courage to act. Worry beyond the ability to act is pointless and failing to be concerned enough when it matters is negligence. Reasonable worry is the middle ground concern of wisdom.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Trinity in Marriage

What is the right view of wholeness in marriage? Do two halves make a whole, or are both partners, husband and wife, whole people in their own right, making also one whole person in marital unity? This article argues for the latter, but with another entity completing the whole: God. Hence, a trinity exists in marriage.

Most spiritual people seek to become ‘whole’ people. But if they are married, rather than whole, they are best becoming a whole half—as they gave up their self wholeness on their wedding day. They can no longer afford to think selfishly, for they have a partner now whom is equally important as they are. But it’s easy to get mixed up in ideas of halfness and wholeness. That’s not our objective.

The objective is to focus on the trinity in marriage.

Three Persons – One Marriage

If our theology is correct, we will view the Holy Trinity as God as three Persons—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—and God, equally, as One. Likewise, we can picture marriage in a similar sort of way, though we’re not elevating husband and wife to the realm of God, just merely placing God in the unity of marriage.

So, marriage is a trinity—God, husband, wife—and that marriage is one; it is not an entity in the realm of God, but it is an entity sponsored and anointed by the Lord.

Importantly, each of the three parts of the trinity of marriage is a unique and whole entity of itself; God without question, and each the husband and wife will always be whole persons, not disregarding the other, but complementing each other—as does God, in his wisdom, augment the marriage through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why Is Such A View Of Marriage Important?

Marriage is a God-designed-and-blessed-and-anointed institution. The Lord owns marriage. It is never, and can never be, a concept that humankind can fashion like an idol for its own purposes.

But this is, in fact, what has taken place.

In recent years there has been a significant challenge to marriage which shouldn’t sway us from the present topic. De facto marriage, or by other terms “common-law marriage,” was perhaps a visible initial shove—with spiralling divorce rates—down the slippery slide; same-sex marriage is another desecration of God’s institution.

Worldly humanity tends to normalise such trends for the mode of ‘accepting’ all persons, never understanding, or grappling with in courage, the ramifications.

These ramifications are damning on society; the very fabric, unpicked; the flow of blessedness, interrupted. Ardent Christians are not gay-haters; they just fear the Lord, for the world’s idolatry, in these ways; and rightly so.

The design of Creation is not ours to meddle with.

But we are off point.

The point is, even well-versed married Christians tend to forget that God is a solemn partner in their marriages—never subordinate to the husband and wife, but equally Present in that marriage, seeking always to bless it with revelations of love, humility, and mutual sacrifice; that, for the family, and ultimately for the community and society at large.

The vision of marriage is of love for the neighbour—our closest neighbour, our marital partner; then, our children... our extended family... then beyond. The same love, humility, and mutual sacrifice—resplendent in the marriage—is exemplified as the model of love to the endpoint neighbourly realm. Such a love never finishes. But it is first modelled in marriage.


Not only is God as significant a partner in marriage as the husband and wife is, both wife and husband are just as significant as each other—both, whole people.

Concepts of love in marriage are never more heightened than when we consider the marriage a trinity—three entities sharing a special oneness. In such marriages there is never true aloneness, because both partners have the eternal Presence of God even when they’re physically alone, or apart from one another.

The oneness in marriage means either entity—husband or wife—has the loving ability to well think and act for the concerns of the other, with God sponsoring, in Power, the overall project.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Kindness Letter

Dear John/Joan, I’ve been thinking about you and wanted you to know. Times like these remind me how important it is to have a good friend; I consider you my good friend and therefore want to reach out.

I am:

1. Thankful for the help you provided and what it meant to those you helped. It’s so nice that people like you still exist in the world, a person who looks out for others and is not afraid to get their hands dirty helping people in need.

2. Sympathetic about your loss and wanted you to know I am actually praying for you. Times like this it’s so hard to know the right things to say; I’m hoping that whatever I say or do might be of practical help for you. I understand how difficult it is for me, or anybody else, to begin to understand just what you are going through right now. Just know you have my prayers.

3. Mindful of the changes impacting on you right now. Without wanting to second-guess what it might be like I just want you to know that I see your difficulties and admire your strength, courage, and determination to get through; to adjust despite the challenges; to keep going when you feel like you don’t have any more to give. I can’t share your pain other than acknowledge that it is real.

4. Praising God for you, for your inspiration and your ability to inspire others. You are a gem; a jewel in the area which you are placed. I can see the difference you’re making in other people’s lives. I can see that you are the person for this hour, chosen for the task and able to complete it. This will be a blessing to many people.

5. Happy that you’ve made it through a difficult year and it’s clear that you’ve grown through it, despite the seeming unfairness of the challenges that were put before you. You were betrayed and rejected yet you chose not to betray back. The courage you have shown is a testament to your loving character. You truly are a beautiful person.

6. Grateful that you’ve been there for me. It may have been easier for you to pretend I didn’t need the support I truly needed, but you came to my aid anyhow. You took a risk and in that way showed how loving you really are. Thank you.

7. Encouraged by your constant and ongoing support. You make this situation, right now, so much more bearable, and even a joy in some strange way.


Letters of kindness are an encouragement in so many ways, mainly because they’re usually completely unexpected. How nice to receive good news—as in a gift—when we least expect it.

The best thing about letters of kindness, personally speaking, is the encouragement God speaks into our hearts, as we practice the humility of loving other people.

Kindness is an elixir that can brighten the darkest day.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Finding Our Fit In This World

Every one of us has the same, but unique, challenge—to find our fit in the world, or more correctly, in each aspect of our lives. It’s a never-ending task; to find balance, our purpose, and meaning to life that is personally significant. It’s one of the key reasons why we are happy or unhappy.

Happiness or unhappiness in one area of life has the profound ability to skittle into other areas. The flow of the compartments of our lives is more interdependent than we care to realise.

Indecisiveness is a key indicator that our sense of fit is askew.

Markers of Indecisiveness

If we are given to have periods that vary from contentment to discontentment—the state of vacillating between these two, even on the same day—we straddle indecisiveness.

The truth is, when we grapple with our fit in the world—for instance, in one important aspect of our lives, like our employment—where we struggle for meaning, confused for our role in it all—ripples pervade into other areas, even mostly our thoughts.

This is never a good place to be for long.

If life is seen as a flow, something we need to maintain regarding balance, and that balance is upset, we can begin to become less congruent within ourselves; less sure, maybe; certainly less decisive. Along with haste, indecisiveness is one of the two great pests halting contentment.

And, ironically, indecisiveness will make itself known in the unlikeliest of seasons. It may commend itself to a season already challenged for other disconnected reasons.

Shifting the Imbalance

Life in the indecisive lane could be likened to a poorly ballasted ship; we imagine a ship that looks as if it may capsize. Righting a listing ship is perhaps awkward, but not as difficult as it seems.

Shifting the imbalance may take a focus partly in patience, to ride out the rough seas contributing to the list, and it may take a focus partly in discernment—the ability of awareness, and no less, the capacity of self enquiry—as well as the wherewithal, to install the changes required. Courage is the final component—sometimes we know what we need to do and all that is lacking is the will to do it. Courage is comparatively easy if we consider that both patience and discernment are rooted in the character of perseverance, firstly, and secondly of gifting—not everyone has sufficient abilities or capacities in discerning the way forward.

But if indecisiveness is the marker, shifting the imbalance, somehow, is required.


As indecisiveness marks us as discontent, equally decisiveness can prove us inwardly very content. Decisiveness is, then, a more direct way to true blessing.

Decisiveness can be that indicator that we have found our fit in the world; at least in the significant compartments of our world.

There is interconnectedness between being inwardly decisive and happy. Those who have found their fit in their world are content. But, equally, finding our fit in the world is more a journey than a destination. Because of change, our ‘fit’ is something to be maintained.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Credit: Indecisive Swimmer by Katarina Stefanović.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

‘Fixing’ Our Broken Family

Separations and divorces call most urgently for responsible parenting; at least one parent must be ‘adult’ by way of their constant sacrificing for the global needs of the decimated family. It only takes one. But if both parents insist on acting like children, putting their own selfish agendas over harmony—if they both react—then it is hell for the children. And it can only really be cursing that results.


Broken is the family,

Smashed beyond belief,

How do they have hope?

How do they gain relief?

Parents at loggerheads,

Children asking why,

How’s the conflict calmed,

When everything’s always awry?

A parent giving over their will,

Love is now obeyed,

Can somehow afford to be still,

Knowing children’s needs are made.


The imagery of the family going through violent transitions—a passage to a deathly new life—is heartrending for those loved ones and friends close by, not least for the protagonists.

It Takes Just One

Somehow one parent must take charge through an ironical surrender, for love surrenders to protect others over itself. It only takes one, but one at that. In so many broken families not even one adult-behaving parent can be found.

Sure, selfishness will always rear its ugly head in a moment of confused anger. The main thing is the quick restoration of a loving status quo through apology and repentance. And quick restorations are a routine need; the nature of conflict in dysfunctional families is an ebb and flow in an ongoing sense.

If one parent can commit themselves to that high ideal of restoring peace, providing quick restorations, in the spirit of unity, the whole family has a hope.

Ours is the opportunity to be that one; to be the hero or heroine for our children; to provide them with hope and thus a future in the midst of millions of broken families without a skerrick of hope.

A single mother or single father can be both mother and father or father and mother if they have to be. God fills the void making things ‘good enough’, certainly survivable.

Even if we didn’t believe in God, we know that love is of God, and it fills us with the desire, motive and methods to sacrifice for those who cannot fend for themselves.

Faith in a Hope That Cannot Be Seen

This is a biblical truth, and a paradox at that:

When we are in a situation of utter brokenness, the family in disarray, ourselves hurting from the sting of rejection, abuse or neglect, hope is impossible to see, unless we choose by faith to see—that is, to act in hope in the absence of sight.

It takes a lot of faith to have hope enough to sacrifice our selfish need. But God gives us a blessing in that instant when we see the hope return to our children’s eyes. That’s down-payment enough.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

When Can I Withhold The Truth?

“The decision to withhold the truth must always be based entirely upon the needs of the person or people from whom the truth is being withheld.” ~M. Scott Peck M.D.

We have perhaps been told that keeping a ‘good secret’ is fine. Trouble is many of our so-called good secrets have tended to backfire awkwardly on us.

Whenever we falter, so far as secrets are concerned, we can perhaps analyse the reasons rooted in crossed or confused motives. No matter how well intended the secret is, the motive for self-gain is somehow usually present, not to mention the complex dynamics—because of the other people involved we don’t normally think about.

We are not typically good at predicting future permeations; how things might turn out.

When Is It Okay?

Withholding the fact and details of our illicit drug use, for instance, back when we were younger, from our children in their formative years, is a sort of secret that is based entirely upon their needs. They don’t need to be exposed to such truths; not now. But if we were to be asked about it, we would need to be prepared to offer some sort of honest, though protected, response.

Another good example is illustrated in Step Nine of the 12-Step Program. Where we wish to repent of deeds past we need to be cautious enough not to injure people in order to satisfy the making of amends. In other words, if a fact of truth has the potential to harm rather than liberate we are better to conceal it in the person’s presence. We are not going to pursue our own healing at the expense of another. Some people and situations may never be ready for our amends. This we must accept.

These are only two examples. There are perhaps many similar ones. But these two illustrate how the other person is at the forefront of our thinking, not the other way around.

When Is It Advised?

It can be safe to say from what was discussed above that the threats of keeping secrets—no matter how well-intentioned they are—are real and even unpredictable regarding the cost. It’s a risk. On the one hand, no risk means no return; on the other, one risk gone wrong can threaten, or even destroy, trust.

To keep genuinely good secrets is something we need to be disciplined at. Like telling the truth, the less we talk the less chance we have of lying or omitting significant details; similarly, the less truth we try to conceal the less chance a so-called good secret can backfire.

Now, a gift planned in secret can usually never backfire, but bearing in mind the possibility that it could might assist our planning. For example, a gift destined for one’s wife ought to be somehow marked-out uniquely for her, so that if it were to be discovered there is less risk of the wife’s mind going on a flight of fancy regarding ‘who’ it might be for or why. Our minds do funny things; better to plan for success.


The key is the other person’s or group’s need—never our own.

Withholding the truth for appropriate reason depends upon a rigorous self-honesty. If we’re honest with ourselves, accountable for our actions, and always looking out for the people affected, we perhaps have the fitting checks and balances in place.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.