Skeletons in the Closet
Hello and welcome to Friday, February 4, 2022. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again. Do your best to make it meaningful.
It's been my experience that we can’t be free and heal until we embrace and allow ourselves to be seen, exactly as we are.
My first experience of being asked to be honest about who I am came in a hushed confessional in a Catholic church. The quiet man behind the screen told me that I must confess my sins to him and to God if I hoped to be saved, but I was ten and scared, and there was no way I was going to tell anyone what I was really like. I kept the skeletons of my unskillful youthful behavior clacking around in the closet, and as long as they were there, I was caught in a cycle of repeating the same shameful behaviors, and even coming up with some new ones.
I carried my sinful secret skeletons into adulthood. As my years multiplied, so did the number of skeletons. Because no-one in my circle was forthcoming about their true nature and because I couldn’t see into the closets of others, I assumed their closets were clean of the clacking mess in mine. I felt scared, different, and alone. Like most of us, I learned how to put on a good front and stand with my back to the carefully locked closet—nothing to see here! Living like this this requires a tremendous amount of energy, takes a huge toll, and eats away at our peace and well-being.
Though I had heard the wise saying that “we are as sick as our secrets” many times, it wasn’t until I had experienced the freedom and release of allowing my skeletons to be seen by another that I recognized and actually believed in its usefulness. In fact, prior to opening to the door to my closet to another, I saw little use in this frightening idea and the whole idea sounded rather preposterous.
It wasn’t until I found recovery that I became willing to be honest about who I was. I learned that it was my fear and remorse – my shameful secrets – that fed my addiction and kept me from healing. Step five, in most twelve-step programs, suggests that we are to, “admit to God and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Without taking this vital step, most people cannot heal. We are as sick as our secrets. We must fearlessly shed light on our skeletons, and we can’t do this alone. Sharing our secrets with another, a trusted human being, smashes the ego, the false self, the façade we erect to fool ourselves and others, and creates the space for humility and honesty and healing to arise.
My first attempt at step five was kind of like my experience as a ten-year-old in the confessional. I told the chaplain who was assigned to receive my fifth step much about myself…but not all. I shared enough, however, to notice a significant amount of the shameful weight lift from my shoulders. I immediately felt a new sense of freedom, peace, and ease. Over time, because of that first effort, I was able to tell other trusted friends the remainder of my dark past and my deepest secrets. While no single person knows everything about me, my closet door has been unlocked and opened, and every skeleton inside has been introduced to at least one other human being.
The freedom that results from this is miraculous.
Now, just as it is necessary for us as individuals to allow ourselves to be seen as the imperfect humans that we are, it is equally important for communities, institutions, and nations to be forthcoming about their true nature.
While there is an abundance of kindness, love, and compassion around the world, there is also a lot of destructive sickness and corruption that continues to unravel the moral fiber that binds us, one to the other. Just as in my case, if institutions continue to bury and hide their true nature, crimes, and cruelties, it creates the conditions for this same behavior to persist.
Unfortunately, just as it was unpalatable and unthinkable to me, most institutions are unwilling to voluntarily expose their own skeletons. Things need to get pretty bad before we find it necessary to crack that door open and allow others to see the truth.
But this too is changing. Not all that dissimilar from a confessional, to help heal from the atrocities associated with apartheid, the South African government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was led by the late Desmond Tutu. South African citizens, both victims and aggressors, can safely and courageously stand before the commission and share their experiences openly and honestly. This creates space for reparation and amnesty. This is but one example of a nation actively working towards healing. There is hope!
All in all, we don’t like to look in our closet and share what’s in it because it makes us uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable! This discomfort that we try so desperately to avoid, however, gives rise to empathy and understanding. Empathy and understanding are the foundation for compassion. As individuals, we heal through compassion.
Since individuals are what constitute communities, institutions, and nations, this healing must begin with us. Because it’s an overwhelmingly frightening idea for us to share our true nature, we must be discerning about when and where we open our closet door and to whom we introduce the skeletons inside.
Start slowly with those you implicitly trust. Additionally, make it safe for those around you to be who they are by demonstrating that you’re okay being exactly who you are. And remember, you are perfect. It’s time to heal.
If you would like to learn more about clearing the skeletons from your closet, I am here to help.
You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!
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