Trust and Discretion

This week, in our seven week exploration of the elements of Trust based on Brené Brown’s model, we came to the cryptic “V” in the “BRAVING” acronym, “Vault”. 

“Vault” in Brené’s model refers to the idea of keeping something safe, as in a confidence or even a secret.

The secrets we share with others, or that others share with us, often occur during a time of change, challenge, or difficult growth. Sure, there are happy secrets, like the great gift you got for someone, or a surprise party. But, the deepest confidences can be heavier: dissatisfactions, anxieties, illnesses, financial troubles. Sometimes the burden of carrying these heavy loads alone can feel overwhelming, and the person trudging on the path, bent deep with the heaviness of this burden, may need to turn to someone and say “Could you share this heavy weight with me for a while?”

When we are able to say, “Yes”, we have both received and given a gift. The gift of confidence goes both ways. Someone has shared a confidence with us, offering their trust. We have accepted it, offering our support. 

So, over a bottle of wine or a long walk they may unload. And, we help them carrying the load by listening.

Now, there are a couple of key points in this whole heartwarming tale, if we wish to use this opportunity to build trust. 

First, maybe they absolutely say, “Please don’t share this with anyone else.” Maybe, the information is so spicy that it is tacitly understood. But, what if you leave the exchange without this clearcut perception….is it ok to share this information, maybe with mutual friends or family members? How about if you feel someone could help…is it ok then?

Naturally, if it is an issue of safety, such as harm or abuse, the answer may be “Yes!!”. But, for most confidences, the answer is probably either “No”, or “Only if I have the permission of my friend to share.” 

As Erika Hewitt, a minister in Damariscotta, Maine said in her blog on Secret Keeping, “I…believe that once someone shares a secret with us, that secret never stops belonging to the person who entrusted it to us…..Guardians of secrets don’t have the right to break secrecy without fully preparing the secret’s owner for that breach.” While we offer to help the owner carry the weight of a secret for a while, we probably don’t have their permission to offload that weight to someone else.

An additional challenge to practicing discretion is to practice non-judgement. If a secret is a secret, it’s probably because there is a dark, difficult, unresolved, or even shameful aspect to it. The secret’s owner probably fears judgement, and must feel trust in order to share. They may ask for an opinion, which should be given with compassion. They may later select a path to resolve their challenge that seems absolutely ill-advised. It may take massive restraint to hold back screams of “What are you doing??” But, hold back we must if trust is to be built. As Erica Hewitt says, “Underlying all of these convictions is a renewed appreciation for how complicated the world of secrets is, and how important it is to stir a generous dose of compassion into the mix of judgement and narrowed eyes. What if someone suffering under the fearsome weight of secrecy had even one compassionate listener to accompany them toward ease, toward truth, towards redemption?”

The discretion and non-judgement required to gracefully carry the burden of a secret requires self-discipline and compassion. This week in our practice we focused on the Manipura, or Solar Plexus Chakra. This chakra is located just above the navel, and is accessed through abdominal work, twists, and kapalabhai breathing. We also added a good amount of strength work into our practice. Anything that helps us feel strong and stable activates our ability to slow down and practice restraint when the lips start to feel loose and juicy secrets or judgements threaten to spill out.

But, maybe an even easier way to remind ourselves to practice grace when a friend asks to share, is to remember that sharing a burden is a gift we can give. This gift can be a valuable way to build trust…not only with your friend, but with yourself. When we demonstrate that we have the capacity to hold secrets with integrity, it is ourselves we learn to trust.

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