Memory House Publishing

Family Secrets: To tell or not to tell

writing about family secrets

My new novel, A Promise to Break, which will be released in June 2016, is based on a true story. Some family secrets will be exposed. Is that good or bad? I’ve talked with living family members involved and assured them I don’t mean any harm, but how do I disclose information without hurting feelings? Where do I draw the line?


First, I tried to address the disclosures with grace, not in an ugly, malicious or sensationalist way. And there are ways to do that, without hiding the facts, but by revealing deeper motives, hurts and struggles. We all have secrets, some best left unspoken, and some helpful to other people going through the same scrapes in life. Second, I had to choose carefully what and when to expose confidences and when to let those awkward issues lie buried in the past.

Why do we keep secrets anyway? Maybe we don’t want to hurt someone else, we don’t think anyone cares, or we’re flat-out embarrassed. Face it; some things are better left unsaid.

At my niece’s bridal shower last week, I thought about advice one would give a new bride. Do you tell her that relationships are difficult? Nah, probably not the best time to express that. But I really wanted to say that we shouldn’t keep secrets from our spouses. It’s easy to do when we we’re either hurt or have done something foolish again.

For example, this past week, I backed into a van, dropped and destroyed my phone, and failed to get the oil changed in the car when I said I would. All those things I wanted to put off telling my husband. Even more serious, what about the times my feelings are hurt? Maybe it’s just me, but I might pout, nag or turn a cold shoulder. After all, I’m tempted just like anyone else. And we do tend to keep our hurts secret.

What does the Bible teach about secrets? That’s a lengthy study, but many people’s weaknesses are exposed in the Bible. Remember David and his lusty affair? Moses and his disobedience? However, all secrets are not revealed in the Bible. There would be too many to list. So it appears that when a secret is beneficial to us, the reader, then at the appropriate time and place, it’s proper to disclose.

There are no secrets from God, Psalm 44:21, for He knows our hearts. But there are fitting times and places to reveal our vices. The goal is to glorify what God has done through our weaknesses.

I have tried to incorporate Psalm 102:18 into my writing. “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” May anything I write offer praise to God, even the family secrets in A Promise to Break.

You are loved, Kathryn

One reply on “Family Secrets: To tell or not to tell”

Kathryn, As usual, lovingly put together with the passion you feel for writing and your desire to glorify God. bonnie

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