One Good Phrase: Secrets Don’t Make Friends (Megan Tietz)

Megan Tietz owns such command of language and knows just how to use gentleness to guide her readers to the good truth. This woman has a lot going on right now. (For details check out her .) And I’m honored she has taken the time to be with us here today. After you read this post, you’ll probably want to click on her previous  from the {This Sacred Everyday} series. I’m so glad to welcome her.


Last week, Seth kicked off with on the idea of One Good Phrase. How appropriate that the first phrase offered for our collective musing was one rooted in ancient tradition, illuminated by Seth’s masterful treatment of the themes of both exclusion and inclusion in the church universal, a reflection on a phrase rich in meaning and imperative to the health of the body of Christ.

I hope you’ll not be too disappointed, then, with this meager offering from an aging sorority girl who insists to this day that some of life’s most lasting lessons came to me under the banner of Greek letters, pressed into my heart alongside white carnations and cryptic crests and panhellenic spirit in the most formative years of life.

I remember those days with a clarity that betrays the length of the years that have passed since we spent afternoons and evenings in giggly, gossipy, Diet-Coke-fueled clumps, tucked into tiny dorm rooms or sprawling against the walls of the hallway of an entire floor. In those days right before cell phones invaded and stole all of our attention, we fiddled with pens in hand or cigarettes or crunched on ice from Route 44 sized cups from Sonic.

And I remember that one of us would hold her hand in front of her mouth in a half-hearted attempt to shield her words from the hearing of others, making some snarky commentary or divulging some sizzling hot gossip. And upon seeing this, some Mother Hen would cluck:

Uh-uh-uh! Secrets don’t make friends!

And we would roll our eyes or laugh or be annoyed. But somehow in four years, that phrase – that one good phrase – took root in me. In fact, I so internalized its truth and its power that I found myself involuntarily repeating it to my high school students when I was teaching and later to my daughters as they played.

Because isn’t that the truth, really?

Secrets don’t make friends.

For the sake of discussion, let’s cast aside the fun, healthy, sweet side of secrets: Surprise parties. Don’t tell the name until the baby is born. Romantic proposals. Anonymous gifting that meets a need big or small. These, we can all agree, are the secrets that bring light and spontaneity and thrill to life.

Let’s instead turn a sharp eye to the other kind of secrets, the ones that truly do not make friends because they are inherently harmful to relationships.

The insidious nature of secrets are that they are almost always rooted in shame. If there weren’t some degree of shame attached to them, we would just speak them out loud.

To be the subject of a secret means knowing the sting of disloyalty and the shame of decisions regretted.

To be the teller of a secret means exploring the shame of realizing at your very core you cannot be trusted.

To be the keeper of a secret means carrying a burden whose weight never grows lighter, believing if anyone knew the truth, the shame of it all would consume you.

Relationships that are authentic and true reject the hot-breath-in-your-ear whispers of secret. Relationships that are healthy and strong sense when one or the other is holding cards to close to the chest, avoiding eye contact, and insisting that it has all been laid out on the table. Relationships that are grounded in grace and in truth won’t pry your secrets out of you, taking some selfish pleasure in the voyeurism of your soul; instead, they create a space with undergirds of trust that bars condemnation at the door.

Shame and secrecy have no place for those of us following Christ in The Way – no place in the life of the individual and no place in the vibe of community. Conviction? Absolutely. We yield to the movement of the Spirit within calling us to confess and repent. But shame calls us to the opposite of that; it encourages us to retreat and hide and bury our secrets deep.

Some of us are more prone to secret-keeping than others, especially those of us whose past attempts at honesty and transparency have been met with punishment, abandonment, and rejection. We may need to log many more hours in a room of grace than others before we let those secrets come tumbling out. Be gentle with us, and patient, too. We want so badly to know the relief of secrets told.

And all of us need to be in relationship with at least one person who will Mother Hen us and call us on the carpet when we engage in the shifty acts of secret-keeping. Whether its in a dorm room or a church hallway or the bleachers of a football game or a coffee shop or on the couch in the late hours of evening, may we ever heed the warning and embrace the freedom in knowing that secrets don’t make friends.

Megan Tietz is the soothing voice and spirited pen behind  – blog hub for all things faith, family, and natural living since 2006. She’s also the co-author of
Megan and her husband Kyle make their home in Oklahoma City with daughters Dacey and Aliza Joy, both anxiously awaiting their twin brothers’ arrival in the very near future. She’s all-too-happy to sit down with a cup of good coffee and talk endlessly on pop culture, great books, and the wonders of the life in Christ.


  • Lee H.

    To be the subject of a secret is very damaging. I was one of those babies born out of wedlock in the 60’s. The nature of my coming into the world was so shameful that many people held it as a secret. My existence was even kept secret from my own father. A baby like me is shameful in one situation and such a blessing in another. A closed adoption and sealed records added to my shame. I felt as though I must have been really bad if I am not even entitled to know the names of the people who made me. Even though I did not deserve to feel shame I have felt it all my life…enough is enough…no more shame, no more secrets.

    • michaboyett

      Thanks so much for sharing your story, Lee. I hope you’ve been able to find freedom and peace in being open about your adoption, even if the records are still sealed. Peace to you.

    • Oh, Lee. Thank you so much for trusting us with your story. Your words poignantly illustrate the damage that secrets can do in our own lives and those around us. I’m inspired by your hope as you move forward – no more shame, no more secrets. Blessings to you.

  • This is such a good word, Megan, and it applies in so many ways. You’ve got me reflecting on the secrets I keep for others and for myself and the reason behind divulging them, if at all.

    • I ran out of space and time to broach that aspect of secrets. As you know, I do certainly believe in the importance of boundaries and discretion. It’s totally one of those things which, like you said, requires some reflection and guidance in knowing what to share and when. Thank you for drawing out that aspect of it!

  • Such a good post. My childhood was full of secrets. My parents would not tell my grandmother that my brother and his girlfriend (who lived in another province) were living together. I never knew till I was an adult that Uncle so & so had been married before and uncle such & such had been married 3 times before. I never knew why my parents never talked about certain relatives. And many others. Not that my parents should have sat us down for the “Let’s take the skeletons out of the closet!” talk. But we learned that some things just weren’t talked about. And you’re right: it’s all about shame, and the antidotes are grace, mercy, truth, and trust.

    • Family secrets are some of the hardest, aren’t they? Everything we learn in the context of family has the power to shape who we are and who we become. I can so relate to what you have shared here!

  • I am a firm believer that secrets have the power to kill – to kill love, relationships, sometimes even life itself. That doesn’t mean that we have to broadcast them to the entire world, but it does mean that holding hard things secret, especially over long periods of time, can do immeasurable harm once the secret it released. And it always is, isn’t it? Thanks for these good words, Megan!! Always love to read your reflections.

    • Excellent, excellent point, Diana. Not everything needs broadcasting. But there are things which, when brought into the light, can finally come to redemption and healing. Thanks so much for sharing that truth.

  • michaboyett

    Megan, I just came back from my mom’s group and today we were talking about The Fall and there was that word: SHAME. We were talking about how beautiful it is that God covered Adam and Eve’s shame with clothing. Then I thought: Wait! Isn’t that concealing? Isn’t that keeping a secret? And then my brain shut down. But it was clear to me that shame has been there from the beginning…it is always there beside brokenness. And I love that picture of God working to give us something good as an antidote to our shame. Thanks so much for these words.

    • Ohhhh. So much good stuff to think about. In fact, that concept alone (shame in the Garden) could be a whole Thing on its own! But I love that thought – God meeting us in our shame, knowing it, and tending to us in it. Yeah. Kind of makes my head woozy to think about it all!

      Thank you again for hosting me here, Micha. Such an honor.

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  • Mark Allman

    Such a wide and deep subject. An aspect that Leigh touched on and that there are things I do not share that I know because to do so would be harmful. I try to run it by the “will it build that person up” test if I share what I know. To have a secret feels like having a treasure and we present it as such at times. I guess part of the test would be are we being deceptive keeping the secret or showing grace.