Occasionally, we discover something embarrassing. (“Oh. You like Wilson Phillips too?”) But other times we rediscover an old gem, and can’t believe that we were once young strangers in different parts of the country, looking up at the stars to the sound of the very same Ben Folds song. Last night, it was this one:
But our nostalgic slumber party came to a disturbing halt when I paid closer attention to the lyrics and Googled their meaning. Here’s what Ben Folds himself had to say about this song:
“People ask me what this song’s about… I was asked about it a lot, and I didn’t really wanna make a big hairy deal out of it, because I just wanted the song to speak for itself. But the song is about when I was in high school, me and my girlfriend had to get an abortion, and it was a very sad thing. And, I didn’t really want to write this song from any kind of political standpoint, or make a statement. I just wanted to reflect what it feels like. So, anyone who’s gone through that before, then you’ll know what the song’s about.”
And SongFacts.com revealed, “Folds has also said that neither teen wanted their parents to know, so Ben ended up taking most of the presents he received that Christmas and selling them at a pawn shop so he and his girlfriend could afford the abortion.”
Yesterday, as I listened to Ben Folds sing about emotional drowning, loneliness, and exhaustion, I thought about the shameful secrets we keep and why we keep them.
My Shameful Secret (Or at least the one I’m willing to share on the Internet.)
Back when I was 22-year-old high school teacher, one of my male students snuck up behind me and put his hands around my waist as I was reaching up to put some books away.
Nothing happened beyond that, thank God. But it is the closest I’ve come to feeling like I might be sexually assaulted. I felt so ashamed of what I thought it meant about me– that although I was supposed to be an authority figure in the classroom, I was really just a target, a weakling, a young pretty girl who had no place working in a school with metal detectors and male students with criminal records.
So for as long as I could, I kept the incident a secret until one day, in a tearful confession, I brought it up with the Assistant Principle. She asked why I didn’t report it to her when it first happened, and I answered, “Because I thought I could handle it.” She replied, “Oh, you handled it alright.” (Again, more shame.)
Fortunately, time and maturity have given me a better perspective on what happened and what all that shame was about. Every time I share the story, the incident has less power over me. And I think the reason why is because *I* get to tell the story of what happened in a way that is respectful and compassionate to myself. That is how anyone, no matter their shameful secret, experiences relief.
Why We Should Share Our Secrets
Brene Brown said, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
If we don’t talk about the incidents that shame us, we will forever remain a mere shadow of who we really are. We will lose the opportunity to replace harmful, incorrect thoughts about ourselves with truthful ones. We will be prisoners of our past.
Secrets do not protect us, they destroy us. They are the heaviest weight anyone can carry. And the only way to come out from under the weight of shame and secrets is to open ourselves up to trusted people who can help remove the rubble, brick by brick.