I have lived several eras in life — teenage, college years, career, young marriage, the time of grief when my first husband died, and now the good fortune of a second love and a second marriage.
I assumed during younger days that I would always live in the same place, with the same friends. Instead, life events have taken me to new places, friendships, adventures — and sometimes the sure and certain past has dropped away.
When I now contemplate those earlier days, I find that I have regrets — regrets about unnecessarily revealing personal things to people who ultimately were not careful guardians of my confidences, or who turned out to be people I did not respect as close friends. None of my revelations have brought severe negative effects; none have been life-ruining. Yet, I wish I had been more circumspect, more discerning, more reserved. I wish I had taken a longer time to choose whom to trust with the personal details of my heart.
Thus, over time I have come to believe in privacy — the privacy which means a sense of discretion and reticence in what we tell others about ourselves.
My experiences as a teacher of young adults in our church have strengthened my belief in privacy. Some of those young people were burdened and anguished about painful personal issues and sought me out as a listening ear. I have guarded those confidences, but at times, their secrets have been extremely painful for me to know when they were about family members, or mutual acquaintances. The events they shared surely were better reserved for a professional who had practice in carrying knowledge of betrayals or family dysfunctions at a distance. And my knowing such things made it difficult for me not to alter my own opinion of those being spoken of.
My belief in privacy has certainly intensified in the later years of my life, but I came to it before technology’s advances have offered people ways to expose so much of themselves to a wide, and sometimes voyeuristic audience. Almost daily we hear news reports and anecdotes about people whose lives have been compromised, or even ruined, by thoughtlessly dashed-off emails, text and voicemail messages of offhand or personal statements used as evidence of infidelities, criminal acts, financial mismanagement, or cell phone nude photos circulated among acquaintances and strangers.
I have been fortunate all along my life path to find friends and soulmates of integrity and compassion. I have been able to share myself with people I trusted implicitly. What I regret is that I sometimes did not hold my privacy for only those friends. In times of anguish and despair, I have blurted out thoughtless, careless comments. Those revelations were damaging to my loved ones and to me; they also could result in wrong impressions about relationships.
Family bonds and friendships should be precious and treasured; shared confidences should be protected by those with whom we share. Ultimately, however, I am responsible for choosing wisely those to whom I would reveal myself, my disappointments, my conflicts, my griefs. And that responsibility is the foundation of my belief in privacy.