You Told Them My Secret?

Shane and I were sitting at the dinner table one day, when he declared that he had a secret – and that he wasn’t going to tell me what it was.

“I think you should tell me,” I said. And so he did.

It wasn’t something so deeply personal that I thought it should be a secret. But hey, he’s in middle school. And in middle school, secrets are big.

Without thinking, I mentioned Shane’s secret to my parents. It was cute, and I was just sharing its cuteness.

Or so I thought.

A few weeks went by, and I casually mentioned to Shane that I’d told my parents what he’d told me.

“You told them my secret?” he gasped. He blinked his eyes hard as they widened with shock.

“Yeah,” I said. “They would never tell anybody.”

“I can’t believe you told my secret,” Shane said.

And he walked away.

Waves of nausea hit me. I’d hurt Shane. This secret was obviously treasured – and I hadn’t given it the respect, and the care, that it deserved.

Sharing a secret is like breaking a promise. In this house, it just isn’t done.

Family trust matters above all else. We have to be the safe haven, the place where we can be loved and believed, and trusted, no matter what.

And now I’ve given Shane reason not to trust me.

I crawled into the room where he was building a marble track.

“I am so sorry, Shane,” I started. I apologized profusely, with no excuses. I begged his forgiveness, and told him that if he ever trusted me enough to tell me another secret, I promised I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

“Well I think I would tell you another secret,” Shane said. “Because most people, when they tell a secret, they just go around seeing how many more people they can tell. They don’t ever do this” – he pointed at my pathetic self, my sincere apology.

And then he went back to building the marble track. Like most kids, he moved on.

For me, though, I am still hanging onto the shame. Unintentional or not, I did something unthinkable in a child’s world. I took the magical gift he gave me – his own personal secret – and I gave it away. My adult self forgot about the magic, the significance, the trust that was implied when Shane shared something with me. I became just another grown-up.

Worse yet, I became a scoundrel.

And like most scoundrels, I can beat myself mercilessly and continue to be a scoundrel, thanks to the shame I’ve created for myself.

Or I can pick myself up off the floor, stop being a scoundrel, and make sure that it never, ever happens again.

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