Secret-Keeping vs. Selfishness: That Time I Knew Too Much and Picked the Selfish Choice Anyway

I’ve come into sensitive information that I’m not supposed to have about one of my dearest friends, and I feel simultaneously guilty and hurt — guilty because I wasn’t supposed to know the information in the first place and only came to learn it because I specifically fished for it, and hurt because, for some reason unbeknownst to me, my friend deliberately withheld this information from me, thereby disabling me from being a potential emotional resource for her. 

Now, I’m torn about how to proceed.

Is it better to air this dirty laundry or ensure that my friend maintains control over when and if it’s shared by keeping what’s supposed to be unknown, unknown?

This is the second time I have recently been thrust into this class of situation by my own accord. A few weeks ago, I googled a friend’s email address with the intention of deciphering what an acronym in his username meant and accidentally stumbled upon his artsy porn stash.

That case is much more clear cut. Although what I saw didn’t surprise me much, he would be extremely embarrassed to learn what I found. Because I don’t think that my disclosure would add value to our friendship, it’s clear to me that the best course of action for now is to pretend it never happened.

The current situation is unfortunately less clear cut in my mind because this does have the potential to add value to my friendship. I’m plagued with this information for which I have tenaciously conversationally-spelunked for years, and now that I have it, I’m not really sure what to do with it.

I don’t like keeping my own secrets bottled up, but this isn’t mine; it’s hers.

I’m scared for the harm I might cause if I directly address it with her. She obviously isn’t ready for me to know, or she would have told me, herself. And yet, I selfishly and optimistically hope that this may add another layer of trust and understanding and openness to our friendship parfait. If I’m lucky, knowing that she can finally let loose about this topic and actually, fully, genuinely discuss it with me for the first time since it arose will be a relief to her.

I’ve ignorantly joked about this secret many times over the years without knowing I was right all along. I know this is a deeply emotional experience she’s kept hidden from the outside world, but I’m still here for her, even after the fact. I suspect she still has a lot of processing to go to make sense of it all.

As much as I can tell myself that the logical answer is to zip my lips, I can feel the albatross around my neck, and I’m probably going to give into my gut. I respect our friendship too much to let any resentment on my end break us up, but if she is not ready to talk about it when I confront her, that will be okay, too.

I just need her to know that I know what she’s been hiding, that I don’t bear any judgment against her for the decisions that she’s made, and (most importantly) that I love her unconditionally.

3 comments

  1. I tend to believe in openness and honesty, so I’d lean towards telling her. Maybe one way to look at it is to consider the outcomes. Spilling the beans might result in the loss of a friend and some emotional pain, but could the friendship survive you keeping your mouth shut? Talking may also have a very positive outcome that may be well worth the risk. And it sounds like that outcome isn’t possible unless you take the risk.

    Liked by 1 person

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