Do I tell her secret and get help for her even though she will probably hate me forever and never talk to me again or do I keep her secret and hope I can convince her not to kill herself? That question is probably a no-brainer for many of us adults, but for an eighth grade girl longing to be liked and make meaningful friendships, this is tough stuff. I regret to say that this is exactly what I put my best friend through when I called her one night in sixth grade telling her that I believed others would be better off if I was dead and I had intended to make that happen, but that she better not tell anyone.
If you would have presented me with the above question, I would have not hesitated to say, “By all means, get her help!” However, when it came to another kind of secret that also belongs in this category, up until this week, I couldn’t give you the correct answer. Specifically, it had to do with the sexual abuse. Like the majority of sexual abuse victims, I was threatened against telling. As an Asian child, the threats carried the additional weight of dishonoring my family. Children who dishonored their parents committed one of the most horrible crimes in Chinese culture and met with severe punishment and disgrace. When the nurse at the hospital suspected sexual abuse and asked a specific question, my silence confirmed his suspicions and initiated the investigation. However, until this week, I continued wrestling with the guilt for having disclosed the “family secret.” Some members of the family took my dad’s side and charged me for tearing apart the family. Even after I was able to believe that the abuse itself wasn’t my fault, which took years for me to believe, I still wrestled with the guilt of having brought shame to my family.
Last night I shared how Ginny Yttrup’s book Words completed the healing in all areas of the sexual abuse. One of the key areas was this guilt that I had carried with me for so long. In her book one of the key characters had struggled with drug abuse and her best friend was trying to help her. Her friend eventually told her parents about her addiction, which caused quite a stir to say the least, but got her the help that she needed. As this woman shared with the sexually abused girl her story of how her best friend’s insistence on telling the truth helped her get the help she needed, a light bulb went on in my mind. This woman was sharing her story to the girl to show her how it is actually a loving thing to tell the truth, and I realized that by telling the truth about what he did, I provided an opportunity for my dad to face correction and change his ways just like the woman’s friend did for her by telling her parents about her addiction. Whether my dad chooses to take this opportunity and change is completely up to him and out of my control, but at least I can know that I brought the truth to light and in doing so, gave him the opportunity to walk in the light of the truth. I realize now that that is probably the most honoring thing I could have done for my him and my family.
I am still amazed at how God was able to communicate this truth to me in such a profound way. Although many would not hesitate to tell such dangerous secrets, I have a suspicion that I am not the last one on earth who struggles with telling such painful truths for the sake of love and honor (or fear). My prayer is that those who are still living in the dark would find the courage to step into the light. I can say from experience that the light is painfully blinding at first, but as the eyes of our hearts adjust to the liberating brightness of the truth, we find that we are able to love as Jesus did. Then we can truly lead the “little children” in singing with joy, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”