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What are you hiding?

what-are-you-hiding_If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you

cannot tell it about other people.”

-Virginia Woolf

“What are you hiding?”

A friend said he was asked this question recently and we began discussing its merits. If you are like me, you probably read that with an accusatory tone in it. If I were to just see that question written, I would automatically assume I’m in trouble. I’m guilty even if I don’t know what I’m guilty for…

But this question was asked more with curiosity than blame.

This question assumes what is mostly accurate: any given day, I have something I do not like about myself - something I’ve done/thought/said, something I did weeks/months/years ago that I carry around with me and I keep it hidden.

I’ve written about this before but the way my friend asked this question struck me differently. Normally this question would come when what I have said/done is starting to creep out of the vault. Those who are living life with me start to notice and say, “What’s going on? What are you hiding?”

But when this question was asked of me this time, I realized he was operating on the assumption that I am naturally hiding something…anything. He didn’t know what it was and it was not necessarily because I was showing signs of letting it out. He just knew that as he hides things, so must I. And he’s right.

We don’t like to think of ourselves in this way, but when what we keep hidden starts to spill out so much that others notice – we’ve actually gone so far down an unhealthy road that our defenses can’t even save us. Granted, some of us are better at this than others and can hide it much, much longer. But eventually, sin has a way of making itself known. Shame has a way of breaking us down piece by piece until we can’t stand under the weight.

So when we have friends checking in on us because they start to see something – we’ve reached a dangerous point.

Asking “What are you hiding?” then becomes a sort of hopeful surgery. Letting people into the darkest parts of our lives does not make us worse. Holding onto feelings of inadequacy, feelings of shame and guilt, feelings of fear and anger – these make us worse. They feed our shame and depression. And we have to begin starving them instead.

How do we starve them?

We starve them by making them known. And we have to move away from the mindset that making these things known is solely for the purpose of finding solutions. If we shed a light on the hidden parts of ourselves looking only for answers, we can intellectualize the problem. We can begin explaining and rationalizing, and feelings get sacrificed.

When we share these hidden things with the purpose of being known, we shift into a deeper understanding of ourselves, those who love us, and ultimately the grace given to us through Christ. When we focus on connection over solutions, we shift into feeling what is happening behind the shame: “I’m worried if someone knew this they would not love me.”

Instead of carrying around this fear, we are able to express it safely and learn one of two things: 1. It is true and some people may choose to no longer love us because of what we said/did but it's okay. 2. The people we feared would not love us draw closer to us because they now know us deeper and our fears can be challenged.

When my friend expressed to me something he had kept hidden from me, I could sense the shame in his voice. I could hear how carrying around this hidden thing had caused him to not interact with me fully in a way that fosters intimacy. But I was also overwhelmed with a desire to honor the risk he took. I spent some time affirming him and assuring him that our friendship was good and I wanted honesty to be more present as we move forward.

We were both filled with the spirit and walked away knowing Jesus better because of the other. Taking this risk does not mean that there will not be pain or heartache. It does not mean there will not be consequences. It does not mean there won’t be wide sweeping ramifications. But taking the risk to be known and reveal what is hidden moves us closer to understanding who we are and what stands in the way of connecting with others and Christ.

What are you hiding that keeps you from connecting with others and Christ?