A classic riddle: When you have me, you like to share me. Then again, if you share me, you don’t have me. What am I?
An answer: A secret.
Everyone has something they keep hidden for whatever reason. Be it shame, fear, sentimentality or just that they have not had the chance to share it, people keep secrets and guard them, sometimes until death.
In some ways, our secrets make us who we are. The act of hiding an aspect of our life, a thought, or some mind-blowing idea creates a certain individuality. Your idea is specific only to you. Sometimes sharing that with others is scary.
These secret thoughts shape our outlook on life. If some new information conflicts with a secret virtue you hold, then you must decide how to traverse that impasse—either sacrifice your long-held sentiment, or adapt to a changing world. While our secrets engender individuality, the act of sharing them can establish community. When someone tells you, like in (500) Days of Summer, “I’ve never told anybody that before,” he or she creates community around individuality. Walls crash down, and the relationship between you builds up.
Now, as quickly as community is established, it can just as easily be torn apart by either a breach in trust or unwillingness to accept the idea, thought or event contained in the secret.
A balance must be reached between risking our fragile individualities and establishing a meaningful community of people. Finding this balance is the secret to successful interpersonal interaction.
Hopefully the risk is worth the reward.
Zach Brown is a sophomore history major from Franklin, Tenn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.