I was pondering the following thought recently: how do I value a secret?  To me, there are a few ways to think about it:

  • When a friend asks me to keep a secret, and I promise to do so, how much do I value that promise?
  • When a friend asks me to keep a secret, how much [more/less] do I value the relationship I have with that friend?
  • How much does my valuation of myself change based on my behavior with regard to friends and secrets?

In the first category, I am a big believer in promises kept.  I understand that there are certain situations where one should promise something and then break the promise for the greater good (a suicidal friend confides in me, and I go seek help for him/her), but I have a basic value for a promise – something high – and I assign consequences to breaking one based on that value.  Sure, I may decide it is necessary to break a promise, or do so for emotional reasons, but even if I feel justified, the promise had enough value (for friends, in all cases) I still try to hold myself accountable for that loss of value. (I plan to write another post on this self-accountability, later.)

In the second category, I generally consider relationships improved when a friend asks me to keep a secret because it indicates trust.  When it’s a secret about a mutual friend, though, I become a bit more suspicious.  Maybe I’m paranoid, but in situations like that, I feel like they are attempting to engineer influence, and bind my freedom of communication with the other friend.  I may value open and honest communication to a fault, though.  It is interesting to note that I don’t like telling people secrets – I feel like it’s either me, in my own head, or it’s all of my friends equally… but maybe that’s too naive a view?

Finally, and this also applies to the converse (my sharing a secret with a friend), I feel much more valued when a friend asks me to keep a secret.  This goes sort of without saying, I guess.  But I also feel much worse when two friends keep a secret and don’t include me (and I know about it).  This is very selfish, but recently I have come to realize this is an emotional response to the following: I thought I had more influence with them than I actually did, and finding out my more-true position relative to them in relationship space is painful.  More on this part when I discuss projection further.