Sound has power. The sound in obreptitious fills the mouth, but breaks the air like a punctured balloon. It’s the unpleasant presence in relationships.
The dictionary says that “obreptitious” means to gain through concealment of the truth, and I gather that it is a word often used in law and associated with fraud. That doesn’t work so well in relationships.
Obreptitious a big word, and I had promised myself that I wouldn’t use such words. It has a lot against it. It has four syllables. You have to look at it three times to make sure you pronounce it correctly. Such words are generally a nuisance because nobody uses them in everyday talking. Imagine…
“Hey, Susan! That was an obreptitious statement.” Or whatever…
I don’t even remember how I found this word. But I knew when I heard it that there was something in it for me; something to think about. Do I want to live my life concealing the truth of what I believe in the hopes that people will approve of my life, ideas, and behavior, or do I want to live my life as an authentic person? I care about the habit of telling the truth. I care making an effort to be real, authentic, and open.
This word, ultimately, is about hiding; about keeping secrets, and secrets, as we know, are not such good “friends.” There are times when concealment seems necessary, but in the end, concealment is a deal-breaker. It kills trust and squashes vulnerability. Without trust and vulnerability, real friendships don’t exist. Ever tried to be friends with a corporation?
Corporations and politicians use concealment to gain money and power. Just look at the mess our political and economic systems are in. I know…the Supreme Court says corporations are people. Good luck with that.
I once witnessed a testy turf war between two former corporate business partners. The executives of one company had developed an elaborate strategy to announce important company changes at a staff assembly without the former partner knowing about the meeting. On the morning of the assembly, the back doors to the auditorium burst open and the executive team of the former partner sprinted down the aisle to take seats in front of the podium as the announcements were made.
It takes a lot of energy to live with concealment—a.k.a. secrets—for gain. Sometimes folks conceal information to get revenge or to hurt another. Like when an ex-boyfriend surprised me by introducing me to his new wife that he had married two weeks before. We were living together at the time.
Sometimes concealment is used to gain protection for the family or to gain stability in a changing and unstable world. Growing up, I had often complained (to myself of course) about not having a big sister who would take on all the big sister responsibilities I had. It’s been said to be careful what we wish for.
“This is her second daughter,” my grandfather would announce when introducing me to people who knew my mother. I was 19 and in the middle of my only trip alone to South Carolina to visit my grandparents. I dared not ask for explanation, and saved my questions for when I returned home. It was not a pleasant conversation, but worse than that, lives were shattered from good intentions. Sadly, more than 35 years later, the damage of that concealment—for my older sister—remains.
Over the past twenty years, I have made some hellish mistakes in my attempts to demolish the wall of concealment in my personal life. As determined as I was to level the wall, I found myself holding it up because it’s a fact that everybody doesn’t need to know everything–whether about me or anybody or anything else.
But, I’ll keep trying. And that is my New Year’s resolution.