“Loose lips sink ships”
That one would disclose his or her secrets to an individual says a lot and it goes without saying that grave responsibilities fall on the listener. This was the thought dancing in my mind as I sat behind my desk this Sunday morning in fasting Indonesia, waiting for the slices of bread on the skillet to turn golden brown and the kettle to whistle.
In this day and age, especially with the advent of Facebook and Twitter, secrets are no longer kept. Nothing seems sacred anymore; nothing is worthy of safeguarding with one’s word and honour. On the contrary, over-sharing has become a trend that I wonder if anything at all is left as personal and confidential. Through Facebook and Twitter you literally know what want is having for breakfast, doing within the next few hours and how their wedding was from start to finish although you weren’t even invited to the wedding. Unfortunately, most keepers of secrets have become unguardedly loose with their tongues and “Oops! Sorry it was a slip of the tongue” has become the convenient excuse for lapses in loquaciousness.
Secrets are meant to be kept and, like e-mails, letters and mobile phones, should not be revealed to others without the permission of the confessors. With the telling of a secret comes the unvoiced sense of trust bequeathed with every word uttered through the revelation. There are only two reactions that are possible with such disclosures. One, you can just walk away, which is easy to do when no emotional ties exist between confessor and listener. In fact, you can, as well within your rights, just politely tell them you don’t want to know or get involved. Whoever said that people are always eager to hear and keep secrets unless you’re a tattletale or a nosy parker? [Aside: If people politely decline to enter the door to your life, it tells you what kind of relationship you have. But, having said this, you should be selective in the people you entrust with your secrets. Not everyone is a friend.]
Second, you offer, as all well-meaning friends do, your undivided attention and accept the secret/s like how the successor to the royal throne would from the abdicating monarch, which is in all solemnity and full acknowledgment of the sacred duty to keep the secrets from escaping from the lips.
But things always go awry and the trust that you placed in a person is misplaced or treated as something inconsequential. There’s no love lost if the friendship wasn’t exactly a strong one – one can walk away with just a minor wound from the betrayal and be on the way to healing within months. But it’s a different scenario when that person you’ve elevated to a position of honour and glory only bestowed on kith and kin fails you. Secrets test a relationship – platonic or otherwise – as well as the character and worth of a person. They bridge the wide gap originally existing between two people, separating the listener from complete strangers that do not matter at all.
What shall one do when trust is violated? Ideally, you forgive and forget as everyone falters, but this is easier said than done. Saying sorry – no matter how sincere it is – is not enough: it’s not enough to undo what has been done; it’s not enough to bring back the trust back; it’s not enough to erase the scars in the heart. Nevertheless, let time work its magic and, hopefully, it will present you and your friend with the opportunity to start again tabula rasa.