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Leadership

Family Secrets are Poison

There is not much that can disrupt the health of a family more than a secret. Even seemingly innocuous ones.

Men who are afraid of their wives end up keeping secrets and even worse, enlisting their children in the conspiracy. They take their kids to places unapproved by their mother and tell them to keep the visit secret. Or they feed them meals or let them watch something they know mom did not approve of.

Even something as simple as eating a cheeseburger and saying “Don’t tell the boss” is not benign.

This does damage in multiple ways.

First, those entrusted to keep a secret will unconsciously create distance with the person who is kept in the dark. This creates anxiety that will show up elsewhere, for everyone, and even if you treat the symptom, it will pop back up again because the underlying cause has not been addressed.

Those in on the secret may communicate better (for a time), but it is a shallow closeness.

Keeping secrets from other siblings will prevent them from forming close bonds.

Second, children who see their father acting without integrity will start manipulating both parents. They will become two-faced, just like their father is two-faced. Pretending to follow the wife’s rules while secretly ignoring them is a lack of integrity.

Third, the wife will start to despise her husband even more, and not really know why. This creates additional tension, which causes a feedback loop where more secrets are fostered.

Secrets can be long-lasting and cause problems for generations. A grandmother and mother who conspired to have an abortion while mother was young, keeping the secret from grandfather, can manifest in ways that might seem like demon possession. It can cause emotional issues with mother’s own husband and children, which will then be passed down ad infinitum.

Unless the secret is addressed. Unless it is brought out into the sunlight to wither.

So don’t divide your family and keep secrets. (Temporary ones like keeping a gift or a surprise party a secret are fine, but even then, the time period should be short.)

Back to our first example, the solution for the man keeping secrets from his wife and burdening his children with his own emotional problems is simple.

He must define his own position. He must be direct and open.

“I’m going to take them to get ice cream tonight.”

“Honey, we’ve talked about this. You know how much sugar is in that.”

“Of course. That’s the whole point. They’ve earned the reward.”

“I don’t want them eating ice cream.”

“I understand. I’m sure they would be perfectly fine with homemade cookies. Would you like to make them?”

“I’m not making cookies!”

“I know, it was unfair of me to ask you last minute like that. Be back in a bit. Do you want us to bring you back anything?”

If there is pushback, agreeing and amplifying can be helpful. Either way, be a man of integrity and don’t sneak around.