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When Family Secrets Come Out

Struggling with a family secret that just came out? You’re not alone. And no matter the secret, it can be a bombshell. How you choose to process the information can mean the difference between a healed heart and a bitter one.

So, what can you do?

Let yourself feel. You might feel discomfort, disgust, anger, pain, denial, rejection, grief, apathy, maybe even excitement. It’s all normal.

Process your emotions in healthy ways. If you bury your thoughts instead of facing them, emotions can sneak up on you later. Acknowledge your feelings without giving them the run of your mind or letting them spark destructive actions. Write them down and talk them through with someone trustworthy.

Understand how betrayal can get in the way of forgiveness. Whatever the secret took from you — trust, confidence, security, peace of mind — let yourself grieve. Then, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You’re not excusing their behavior; you’re making peace with the fact that they’re human, too.

Remember: You’re not defined by other people’s secrets. Yes, some things about your life may have changed because of what’s been revealed. But who you are is rooted in something deeper than other people’s choices.The God who created you also authored every day of your life.

An exposed secret doesn’t erase the good you’ve experienced, and it doesn’t mean that everything has been a lie. You’re not being asked to scrap your entire narrative and start from scratch. Instead, you can acknowledge the impact of the secret and mentally amend your story. This struggle can become a strength:

Decide where to go from here. When it comes to difficult family dynamics, one of the wisest choices we can make is to grieve imperfections well. We can admit that our loved ones let us down, and we can face the truth that we also let people down.

  • Ask yourself if there are any secrets you’re keeping. You can be a person of integrity and not repeat the family cycle. (There’s a difference between appropriate privacy and harmful secret-keeping.)
  • Don’t give up on the possibility of reconciliation. Give God room to work. Your relationship with others might be strained for a while — or completely different going forward. Still, you want to be able to look back and know you’ve done everything you could to live in peace.
  • Above all, be hopeful. Even Jesus’ family tree had bruised fruit. What you’ve discovered may have thrown you for a loop. But Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever, and He’ll hold you steady while you find your next foothold.

For more insight, listen to “Letting God Redeem Your Broken Life,” and read Defined: Who God Says You Are and Next Door Savior.