Pros and Cons of Disclosure

     “Gideon, how are you? I’ve been worrying about you.”
     “Worrying? Why?”
     “Because you–I don’t know, you always get into… adventures that never happen to anyone else. There isn’t anything wrong, is there?”
     “Wrong?” He laughed. “No, of course not.” What was a bomb in the morning mail to the truly adventurous? Besides, why bring it up now when it couldn’t serve any purpose other than to worry her? Later was good enough. If there was going to be any comforting and soothing as a result, he didn’t see why he shouldn’t be there in person for the benefits. “Not that things haven’t been exciting,” he said. “Let’s see, when did we talk last?”

In this short passage from Aaron Elkin’s fourth Gideon Oliver mystery, Old Bones, Gideon Oliver makes a decision not to worry his wife with full disclosure of all details about the perilous adventure he’s become embroiled in while lecturing at a conference in France. His choice to tell or not tell is little different from decisions life writers often face.

Few topics are more passionately discussed than boundaries around what you include in shared stories. Some taut the benefits of disclosure. Joshua Becker tackles this topic on his Becoming Minimalist blog in “Stories We Don’t Tell.” Both sides of the issue are explored in a long list of follow-up comments.

Leah McClellan puts a different spin on the matter in her Simple Writing post, “5 tips for personal stories in blog posts.” Don’t be put off by her focus on blog posts. The factors she explores apply to any lifestory.

As you read these posts, should you choose to do so, and as you make decisions for written disclosures of your own, keep this principle in mind:

Words once read can never be erased.

Factors to consider include

Shocking disclosures forever change relationships. You may get past things, but the knowledge is always there, always a filter, for better (that is possible) or worse. Shocking disclosures can explode in ways you never expected, even years after the fact.

Perspectives may change over time. Anger today, even if the incident occurred a dozen years ago, may look different in another few years. You may eventually want to write the story of how your thoughts and attitude evolved.

Unanticipated fallout for others. Few actions happen in a vacuum. Your disclosures are likely to have impact on one or more other lives. Yes, it’s your story, and you have the right to have your say. Are you willing to perhaps break up someone else’s marriage, create problems for them at work, or start a (another?) war in your family?

Shining light on secrets to bring truth to bear is powerful and healing. But shining bright light directly into the eyes of others may exact a higher price than you realize. Go ahead and write those stories of pain, guilt and trauma. Then use Byron Katie’s tools from The Work to dig more deeply and explore alternate perspectives for insight and transformation. Rewrite your story and share with a trusted friend or adviser before deciding who else should see it and what factors might be involved.

Write now: Write about an old or current resentment and its roots. Use The Work to turn it around. Use this new story to spread love, peace and forgiveness in this season of love and joy.


kathleen pooler said...

Sharon, how did I miss this gem of a post? It strikes at what I believe to be a memoir writer's biggest challenge--revealing one's truth without intentionally disparaging another person. Both links you provide handle the different aspects of truth-telling, a complex, convoluted process. I appreciate how you shed light on the complexities and offer substantive guidance. Thank you for this excellent post. I will share!

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks for your thoughts Kathy. I know this is a big topic for you, one you've written about often. Shares always appreciated.

clarbojahn said...

Thanks so much for writing this excellent post on the topic of truth sharing, Sharon. As I start the process of revision in my own memoir I will take this one to heart.

It is so true that once written and once read one can't take back hurts said. :)