The USA presidential election has been quite an interesting journey to follow. I tuned into it on the radio the other day and it struck me how damaging dirty secrets are to a politician.
Often, on our journey in life, a secret is revealed and it causes a ruckus. People begin to doubt the credibility of a person when an unknown fact is exposed by a third party.
I wonder if coming clean in the first place might have made a difference. After all, it is probably more honest and noble for us to reveal our own secret and admit regret instead of burying it, thinking the world won't find out.
Nobody deliberately chooses to make a bad call. When we take a bribe, commit adultery, watch pornography etc., we usually do it thinking it isn't such a bad decision.
I started masturbating long before I even knew what masturbation meant. I was an innocent, young child exploring her own body and feeling good about touching herself. When I found out what masturbation was, I thought since I wasn't hurting anyone in doing it, it was better than having sex with others.
This, however, led to getting tangled in other sexual immorality like reading comics with soft porn and enjoying sexual scenes in movies—all of which I decided back then were not exactly hurting others and thus permissible.
At the point of making decisions, we always manage to rationalise our actions and think of excuses that make our choices seem right. At a later time in life, however, we will be confronted by the consequences of the decisions made. Then realise we have been deceived. Our so-called best decision was actually a mistake cleverly disguise.
Upon realising the deception, we are faced with two choices—one: confess our wrong, which leads to freedom from that sin; or two: lock it away in a closet, which results in even more accumulated sins.
Often times, we confess our sins to God and ask for His forgiveness. However, doing this alone doesn't seem to give us the freedom and release we seek from our past. Although we have now acknowledged our mistake, it doesn't change the fact we have done something wrong without being forced into it. This makes it hard for us to openly tell others about it and seek help even after our confession to God.
Even after kneeling down and confessing to God all the sexual immorality I was involved in, I still felt like a prostitute. Every time the issue of sexual immorality was mentioned I cringed and tried to laugh it away awkwardly, hoping no one would find out what I had done.
Guilt and shame come into play and persuade us to sweep the matter under the carpet to avoid being publicly criticised and judged. However, hiding our mistakes doesn't free us of guilt and shame. It keeps us further in bondage as we are forever worried our secret will one day be exposed.
James chapter 5, verse 16 points us to how we can break free from the captivity of shame and guilt: "Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (emphasis added).
In admitting our faults to not only God but also to other believers, we are humbling ourselves and declaring that we are not afraid of their opinion of us. Rather, we need others to pray alongside us as we journey on in life. This breaks the bondage of sin and releases us from guilt and shame now that we have nothing to hide.
"A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins, everything remains in the clear, but in the presence of a brother, the sin has to be brought into the light." — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Nothing which happens in our lives should be wasted. Even our dirtiest secrets could and should be used to glorify God. Only when we bring a sin into the light can it be used as a testimony to teach and to encourage.
When we share our mistakes, people can learn from them and avoid making the same ones. If I was unwilling to talk about my past with others, I would not have been able to use my experience to warn a friend about crossing the physical boundaries which result in an unhealthy sexual relationship before marriage.
More than that, sharing the wrong choices we have made speaks of God's mercies: He restores us as His children in spite of any dirty secrets we have. My testimony about masturbation and pornography during a mission trip reflected God's forgiving nature as He gives us a second chance. I was able to challenge young people to stop giving in to addiction by reassuring them that God will certainly send people alongside them to help them out of their mess just as He did for me.
Dirty secrets have great powers indeed—to either destroy or to build. A dirty secret exposed by another might destroy a politician's reputation and end one's race as we have seen in many presidential elections. On the other hand, a dirty secret brought to light by oneself in humility and repentance can be used as a great testimony to build others up.
I am not advocating we should all flaunt our dirty laundry to the whole wide world. Instead, I'm suggesting there's no need to purposely hide our secrets because no mistake is unredeemable in God's sight when we repent.
What will you do with your dirty secrets?
Esther Koh is a stay-at-home mum living in Wellington with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html