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Columnists: Sangeetha Sridhar, Dr.Rajan Philips, Hasan Kamoonpuri

Reflections-By Dr Rajan Philips

Keeping secrets


( This motivational article was published in Oman Observer , one of the leading Newspapers in Oman. The article is reproduced with the permission of the author )

REFLECTION -By Dr Rajan Philips -‘Three people may keep a secret if two of them are dead,’ said Benjamin Franklin. We can readily endorse this view when we view our own experience in interacting with our kith and kin, friends and colleagues. Yes, keeping a secret is truly a Herculean task.

If you agree to differ, here’s the story of Midas for you. In Greek mythology Midas was the King with the golden touch. However, once he angered god Apollo who cursed him by turning his ears into those of a donkey. He managed to hide these ungainly ears from the world by wearing an elaborate headdress. But he had no option but to share the terrible secret with his barber if he had to avail his services. On pain of death, the King got the barber to promise never to ‘spill the beans.’ But it was an agonising burden for the poor man. After days of struggle, he went out one day into the meadow and dug a hole in the ground, whispered the story into it, then covered the hole up. He experienced immense relief. Soon reeds sprouted from the place. As they swayed in the breeze whispers of ‘King Midas has donkey’s ears’ could be heard!

When burdened with a friend’s personal story we do not of course shout out from the roof tops. But total silence too is impossible. So, quite discreetly we pass the secret on to just one other close friend. The process goes on till it becomes the talk of the town. As the English writer William Cowper puts it, the attempt to keep a secret is akin to pouring water into a funnel or a sieve.
Thanks to today’s ‘excellent’ social networks, shared personal matters become public knowledge on the Facebook and Twitter in no time. Celebrities have found this out to their utter dismay.

Despite these inherent risks we harbour secrets and thoughts we feel impelled to share with a trustworthy friend or dear one. This need is particularly felt when we pass through a state of personal distress. But we are truly fortunate if we find such a sterling soul willing to listen, absorb and retain and not transmit! In this process if we err in our judgement the results are disastrous. We feel cheated or let down.
The other end of the spectrum is that despite knowing the consequences of repeating what is heard on the grapevine don’t we derive devious pleasure in passing on what is meant only for our ears?

Keeping a secret is great challenge, and more so when it is spicy. It demands a great deal of determination, strength of character, self-discipline and sensitivity. But it has its rewards. Friends would look up to you and trust you even more.
Having said that, there are circumstances when keeping a secret may not be ethical. If it is likely to harm us or another innocent person we ought to act differently.

We should not keep the lid on a secret act of unfair treatment, victimisation and discrimination. We cannot close our eyes to something dishonest, immoral or illegal. Or when a life is endangered.

A writer puts it beautifully, ‘Hearts are created as safes for keeping secrets. Intelligence is their lock; will-power is their key’. How true. It is for us to act prudently and prove worthy of other’s trust and confidence by safeguarding what deserves to be protected.

v To keep your secret is wisdom; but to expect others to keep it is folly. — Samuel Johnson
v I know that's a secret, for it's whispered everywhere. — William Congreve


Articles by Dr.Rajan Philips

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