Kate Coombs

The Secret-Keeper | Secret Sampler | How To Keep A Secret
Strange Real-Life Secrets


How To Keep A Secret
—Or Not!

Keeping a secret for a friend or family member is an important task, but it's not always easy. So how do you do it?

First let me tell you a story. When I was in fourth grade, a girl in my class wanted to know which boy I liked. She begged and begged me to tell, promising she'd keep it a secret. So I told her. And guess what? The very next day I saw her and some other kids out on the playground whispering and giggling. They all looked at me and giggled even more. The worst part was that the boy I liked was with them! Later I asked the girl why she told my secret, and she said she couldn't help it, they tickle-tortured her. But I'm sure you can think of the problem with that explanation, which gives us Rule #1 of true secret-keeping:

#1—If you really want to keep a secret, don't let anyone know you are keeping a secret. When you tell somebody else that you are keeping a secret, you are giving them a hint. The hint means, "I want to tell the secret, and if you beg me to, I probably will!" This is what the girl in my fourth grade class did, because nobody would have tickle-tortured her if she hadn't started it by saying, "Hey, I know who Kate likes!"

Here are a few more rules to help you keep a secret:

#2—Even if you think it's no big deal that the person wants to keep that particular thing a secret, keep the secret out of respect for your friend. Unless a secret is dangerous, don't make your own decision about telling the secret. Honor your friendship and your friend's feelings about the secret.

#3—Keep the secret until your friend says not to anymore. If your friend decides to tell everybody, then you're off the hook. Otherwise, there's no time limit to secret keeping. I've been keeping one secret for more than twenty years, and I'll keep it until I die unless told otherwise, which I won't because I never even see that particular friend anymore. Remember, a secret is not your personal property. It belongs to the other person.


When You Shouldn't Keep a Secret

The exception to these rules is dangerous secrets, which some people call "cries for help." That is, if your friend is being hurt or frightened by someone, then it's not necessarily a good idea to keep that a secret. But this doesn't mean you should make a decision without consulting your friend first. It's better to encourage your friend to get help from a caring adult, or to encourage your friend to get out of the bad situation if that's possible. (Notice that "encourage" means to "give courage"!) However, if your friend is really too frightened to tell anyone, you might think about telling a trusted adult yourself, or at least asking for advice.


Happy Secrets: Are They for Real?

It may seem like there aren't a lot of happy secrets. That's because most people tell another person, or even a lot of other people, when they're happy about something. But sometimes we don't tell about things like a birthday gift or a surprise party. And we may not tell anyone about something wonderful we're planning or hoping for until it really happens, just in case it doesn't work out. Plus, once in a while you might just treasure a small something, keeping it to yourself—maybe you saw a pretty leaf or heard a song you really liked, and you don't tell anyone. Instead, you save the memory in the pockets of your mind.

Some people call happy secrets "blessings" or simply "good things." I keep a little notebook as a Good Things Journal. Sometimes every day, and sometimes just 2-3 times a week, I make a list before I go to sleep of 5-10 things that were good that day: plans that went well, small kindnesses others did for me, things I got done, and beautiful things I saw or heard or experienced. If you find you're feeling blue, keeping a Good Things Journal can lift your spirits.

Here's a sample list from my GTJ:

  1. My plants (house and patio) are nice and green.
  2. I had a good talk with my friend Kaarina.
  3. Cold pizza for breakfast—yum!
  4. I went to Vroman's Bookstore, and they had a new book by an author I really like.
  5. I figured out a better ending for the story I'm writing.
  6. Liz left some chocolate on my desk.
  7. I finished a hard project at work.
  8. My favorite song came on the radio on the way home.
  9. I saw a butterfly on the roses outside.
  10. I got an e-mail from another school asking me to do an author visit. Yay!
Try keeping a Good Things Journal and see how you like it!



 
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