Written By: Katie Schipper

Privacy vs. Secrecy & How They Relate To Honesty

The Importance of Honesty

Honesty, Open Mindedness, and Willingness – if you’re in any sort of twelve-step recovery, you’ll hear about these virtues over and over. All three are vital, but honesty in particular presents many road bumps to the addict or alcoholic.

The most obvious and undeniable fact about addiction is that in order to maintain the lifestyle of a junkie or boozehound, we have to be in a perpetual state of denial. Denial is the ultimate act of lying to ourselves. So, right off the bat, honesty is a virtue that throws some curveballs.

If a woman in early-recovery is willing to be honest, it doesn’t so much matter whether she’s actually honest. As long as her intention is to be honest, she’s on the right track. To put it another way, when she’s first getting sober, the woman in early-recovery is still going to be in enough denial to not even recognize that she’s still lying to herself and others, but if her aim is to practice honesty, then in time, and with help, the practice of honesty will grow and progress. In order to become willing, she must first distinguish the differences between privacy and secrecy.

privacy vs. secrecy

Read about the importance of accountability

Privacy Or Secrecy – Which One Keeps Us Sick?

With that mouthful about honesty being said, there’s another big concept in recovery we need to look at – the idea that secrets keep us sick. This concept, coupled with the necessity of honesty on the spiritual plane, stirs up a whole debate on secrecy vs. privacy.

For a group of people who’re notoriously secretive, always to our own detriment and demise, what does privacy even mean? In a program that demands “rigorous honesty,” are we expected to share all the details of our private life? How far do we take the spiritual inventory that we do during our fourth and fifth steps?

Read more about the Fourth Step

Being Open to Truth and Honesty

The difference between privacy and secrecy is often subtle and sometimes blurred. The problem of distinguishing the two is that intention plays as much of a role as the actual practice of being honest.

To give an example, imagine a woman in early recovery (or any point in her recovery) who goes to the store and decides to steal lipstick. She may do this for a variety of reasons, but ultimately she knows and understands that stealing is wrong. At this point, she can go two ways. She can keep this secret out of shame. She can hold on to it, believing that in keeping the secret she’s minimizing the act of stealing and therefore doing herself a favor. Or she can, knowing from past experiences that keeping things like this hidden leads to worse shame and secrecy, share what she did with someone. Maybe she’ll tell multiple people. Maybe she’ll bring the lipstick back.

The key lies not in who, or how, she tells, but rather in the fact that she’s willing to achieve truth and honesty over secrecy. By this line of thinking, privacy is how the woman recognizes what she did is wrong, but not shameful, unless it’s left to fester in some corner of her mind. This is the same corner where everything she believes she shouldn’t have done goes to rot.

Secrecy, on the other hand, is the belief that we can do things that are so shameful that we must, at all costs, keep them to ourselves.

When looking at privacy vs. secrecy, we see that privacy is the recognition that we have a right to a personal life, but that there’s no shame in our actions. Privacy is when we’re willing to fully accept who we are, in all areas, without feeling compelled to hide some part of ourself. We might not talk about our battles with depression and anxiety to everyone we meet. Most likely, we aren’t going to broadcast our sex life or relationships everywhere (unless you’re a special breed of Facebook over-sharer!), but knowing that none of this carries any shame allows us to live a private life without the mask of secrecy.

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