Discretion and Secrecy… Very different things

I remember learning at a young age that it was wrong to talk about money. Perhaps not wrong, but rather somewhat vulgar. Probably because my Dad didn’t have any money and he wasn’t that proud of the fact. Particularly, the subject to be avoided was how much people made. I didn’t really understand it but then again I didn’t really care. I knew my Dad took care of things and that if we needed something he would do all he could to make it happen. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I learned more about my parents finances. More because I would overhear snippets of conversation. One of the days I felt truly bad for my father was when he was leaving his job and they were interviewing for his replacement. My father was in the meeting where one fellow was being offered the position. The man turned the offer down flat because it just didn’t pay enough money. Dad was quiet until he came home and broke down to my Mom. The offer was substantially higher than what my father made, and yet the applicant was offended. I knew my father was hurt as he had been in the position for 17 years. Here’s the thing. At some point someone should have really thought about whether Dad should have been involved in that meeting. That is where discretion comes into play. Making a decision about revealing something that is essentially private. It isn’t really about secrecy at that point. It is about avoiding offending my father.

I once had a conversation with an acquaintance about her in-laws. She talked about the amount of secrecy there was in the family. She explained it to me like this. If someone shared what they had for breakfast that morning, they had revealed too much about themselves. We all know people like that. Everything is a secret. What happens in the family stays in the family. The outside world is not privy to the inner workings of a family. There is a certain level of information that is kept within the inner circle. Children are taught to keep certain things private. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this. There certainly is a point when outsiders are given information on a need to know basis. Individuals, families, corporations, governments. All levels of the population have reasons for secrecy in one form or another. Making the decisions about what others need to know is certainly when the need for discretion comes into play. Discretion is something that is learned. It certainly isn’t something that young children have much of a handle on. We have all been in a conversation with others when our offspring pipe up “That’s not what happened Mom.” This is always awkward and embarrassing as our children call us out on something. Often it is innocent but we end up walking away wanting to strangle the kid. How do we teach them that there are some times when their input isn’t really required?

This is why parents are always shooing kids away when they are having adult time. Families get together and have a nice time while their kids are off playing. There is always that one child who hangs around the parents. Sometimes they are a little older than the other kids and aren’t having fun. Sometimes a child is younger and left out so they turn to the adults for comfort. And then there are the ones who just like to listen into the adults because it can be juicy or spicy and it is exciting to see the parents let their guard down and speak freely. Here is where the parents need to learn discretion. At what age does this child need to be allowed into the adult conversation. It is a tough call. However, constantly shooing them away without actually taking the opportunity to explain why the kids aren’t welcome, can cause odd feelings for the kids. Children often just need explanations. The television industry tries to warn us when a show isn’t really appropriate. They advise discretion. Then it is on us to decide what we want our kids to hear and see. We weigh the pro’s and cons and shield our kids if need be. The act of discretion is a wide band and fluctuates to extreme from family to family, individual to individual. We all have a certain level of comfort in the world and it of course guides us on our own path as well as how we steer our offspring. This is why parenting is so hard. Two people from varied backgrounds must find a common starting point which often goes against our own views in some way.

Secrecy is an odd thing. When is it good? When is it bad? You might think that this is really a very difficult question. But… I think it is quite straightforward. It all comes down to motivation. The why factor. Why are you keeping a secret? Are we embarrassed? Ashamed? Have we done something illegal? Morally wrong? And how long do we need to keep the secret. In the case of a surprise birthday party there is an end date to the secret. Lots of people may be in on the secret which is for a pleasant outcome. Even then we use discretion as there are those we know can’t keep a secret. I hate when someone says “I’m going to tell you something but you can’t tell anyone.” Then I want to respond “THEN DON”T TELL ME!” I have enough problems with my own shit. I can’t be trusted to keep your shit under wraps. And honestly I don’t care if your secret gets out. Not my problem. You can’t trust me. I am not an asshole but I am an open book. I say things I shouldn’t. In my defence it is your own fault for telling me in the first place. Half the time it is just gossip from others so I struggle when I know things I don’t think I should. I am often pissed off when people put the onus on me to keep their secrets. This is especially true in the case of idle gossip. There was a time recently when I hurt someone’s feelings because I had to tell them I couldn’t see them anymore. This gal is close to someone who doesn’t speak to me. I can’t have an innocent conversation with people she has in her life. History has shown me that conversations are repeated. Often incorrectly. In the end, often well meaning individuals screw things up. As I am an open book, it is better to avoid the people rather than try and constantly think about what I say. Muzzling my words so they aren’t later misinterpreted. Yet I blog. Yes. But when I write something I am in control of the narrative. This is what I think. This is what I said. There is no middle man to muddle up what I say. If my thoughts are misunderstood and you are upset with me, that is on you. Either approach me to clear the air or live with the feelings you have generated inside by your interpretation.

When we see secrecy in a corporation are they just trying to keep their edge with competitors? Or are they actually doing something wrong? I am sure there is a little of both to varying degrees but what about the Enron’s of the world? Mr. Madoff? To the common guy on the street, these may seem to be anomalies but are they really? I am sure these types of companies exist everywhere. They just haven’t been found out yet. When the whole world has faith in corporations who later are exposed as out and out liars and thieves, how easy is it for smaller scale businesses to be the same way. There are less eyes on them and the powers that be only have so much time, energy and resources to keep people in line. The most recent bank fiasco in the United States caused a rumble around the world. It makes perfect sense as to why Silicon Valley bit it. The rate increases by the feds made the SVB bond investments crap really. Not their fault? I beg to disagree. Anyone with any form of education in the world of economics or the stock market should know there is an inverse relationship between interest rates and bonds prices. Who is running this bank? Obviously they saw the writing on the wall as time went by, but where were their brains when they invested so heavily in Bonds? Was it laziness? Incompetence? A lack of forward thinking? Or just plain old greed as they rode the initial wave of prosperity. Often it is greed that causes downfalls. Like the Ponzi like empires who have fallen from their mighty perches. I truly believe the intent was never to defraud. To become like a Ponzi. But the initial growth and money and power created a need for more and more. As a result everything becomes a closely guarded secret.

The same happens with politicians. I think there are individuals who want to make change. Fix problems. So they become involved and get elected. But like everything, once you are part of the inner circle you see things are not as they seemed from the outside. There are reasons why stuff happens. And we the general public or guy on the street are not privy to the inner workings. If you have ever been on a council or board of any kind or perhaps a focus group, you will understand that time moves rather slow. There is a lot of talking before during and after and yet no one agrees on anything. There is a ton of compromise. If you are an impatient person, like me, you are the guy no one on the board likes. I hate chatting forever about what to do. I like decisions to be made fairly quickly so I expect everyone to find out all they can before making the decision But… people sometimes just don’t. But then I feel if they can’t argue their own side with facts then we can’t give them more time. So I always push for the path forward. Get it done. I am a doer. I struggle to finish a lot of the time but I am who you want on your side if you want your cause put into action. I couldn’t be a politician because I would get frustrated and say and do stupid things. Just blurt out whatever pops into my head. I am working on it but it is hard. Because I am at an age where it doesn’t matter what I say. No one really pays attention anyways. People become invisible with age.

Personal secrets can be so very harmful. Always worried someone will find you out. It is a full time job hiding secrets. I had a secret that almost everyone knew but it wasn’t something we shared with the world. My oldest daughter was born before I was married and my husband adopted her after we were married. He was the one who didn’t share this with others. In fact he kept it a secret from new people in his life. His motives were pure. He didn’t want her to feel any different than the other children. She knew he had adopted her but she was so young I don’t think she really felt any different. He doted on her more than the others, that’s for sure. I never shared it with new people in my life because of his feelings. Let me tell you… It is hard. That one huge secret in my life that I didn’t care about people knowing was the hardest on me. I remember once at a wedding, I shared it with one of the bridesmaids who was a single Mom. I didn’t really know her but both her and my daughter were bridesmaids so were close to the bride. She was quite surprised because she had known my daughter for many years. We had both had a couple of glasses of wine and we were in the ladies room for an hour just chatting openly about our lives. That is what I do. Talk to strangers. Later she mentioned it to my daughter who was so surprised I had shared. To her it was odd. For me it was freeing to just be honest. An inconsequential little secret kept me quiet for years. Not something I was ashamed of, rather something someone else wanted kept quiet. It’s funny how you just forget stuff though. My Granddaughter had freckles “just like Bumpa”. So cute yet no blood relation. I would forget. I made the same mistake recently when my daughter mentioned how tall her friends child was getting. The mother is a little short and I said… “But xxxxx is tall”. Well xxxx is the other Mother. A lesbian couple. So… of course my daughter just laughed.

I couldn’t imagine going through life always hiding things and keeping secrets. It would make me nuts. It is true that secrecy can actually cause so much anxiety as to cause health issues. When we are so afraid people will find us out. See behind the Facade we create and present to the world. Remember the Wizard of Oz? When we then expect our children to also keep up the appearances, we transfer incredible pressure to them. Often the burden is just too much and a child can never develop the ability to fully trust. It harms future relationships, it harms their health, it creates anxiety and fear which can lead to all sorts of mental health issues. Or it might just cause them to grow up to be secret keepers. Thinking that everything is okay as long as no one finds out. There is a strong correlation between secrecy and dishonesty. I am not saying we all need to be open books but there is a real difference between secrecy and privacy. We use our discretion everyday in our lives as to what we are going to share with the world. As well, what we need to teach our children. Privacy is very important as we all know in this age of technology. But what I have learned in my life is this. It is the why every time. Why do we keep secrets? If our motivation is fear, shame or embarrassment we need to re-examine our life choices. Trust is huge in my eyes. Once it is gone it is very difficult to get back. If your secrets will one day hurt you or those close to you, maybe it is best to share them before someone outs you. Because it is only a matter of time before someone you know finds out. And it might be someone who would love to see you fall in the eyes of society. Not everyone is a friend. A child learns by watching. Teach them well. He honest and use discretion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s