My daughter’s seven and she seems to be beginning a phase where secrets are really important. You know, children maintain small bits of power in their lives. Almost everything is decided for them, but they can control the things around them by crying, or whining, or being cute. They can refuse to eat.
One of the most interesting things about being a parent is negotiating all of this. I’m far from a “children should be seen and not heard” parent. But I’m also acutely aware of the fact that my daughter has things–intangible things–that children with siblings do not have. Mainly, decision-making power.
I read in Born to Buy, that parents let their children pick out their minivans. Car companies figured that out, so they began advertising for vans on Nickelodeon. Now, she doesn’t have that much say in the grown-up decisions. But in the small stuff–like going out to eat–we take her choice into consideration. We listen to her opinion about where she’d like to go on family vacation.
Not all the time, of course, or else we’d be going to McDonald’s for every meal and Disney for every vacation. But she gets a voice. And so, it’s interesting to watch this next phase of power keeping and sharing: the secret.
I’ve been having a lot of discussion with her about secrets. It began when we saw a fascinating exhibit that highlighted the best entries of this blog at the American Visionary Art Museum. Now we’re having “it’s important to keep a secret unless ______” discussions. The unless seems to be filled in with things like someone’s harming you, someone’s hurting themselves, someone needs help. Things like that.
My daughter is powerfully good at keeping secrets. She tells me things a year later that I would have blurted out the second I got home. Her ability impresses me and worries me, a bit.
Well, I didn’t mean to go on and on about my daughter. Part of the secret side of her is that she’s not so utterly keen about me writing about her. Which I would do all the time, if I could, because she’s really an interesting little person….
So, I’ll get back to the topic of this blog. And that is how secrets translate in our churches. It’s a lot the same way. Sometimes secrets are good. I’ve seen a church destroyed by a pastor who gossiped about confidential pastoral care issues.
And then I’ve been in churches where everything’s a blasted secret. And it feels like you can’t move without banging your shin on something that’s been swept under the rug.
And then there are those really dysfunctional secrets that a church hides. The whole system becomes distorted around it.
And there are certain people in out congregations who have a whole lot of unhealthy power because they know all the secrets.
And so, I’m wondering, how do we fill in that blank as church leaders? What would you say?
It’s important to keep a secret unless______________________.