Have you ever withheld information from someone? And you told yourself it was for their own good?

And maybe it was.

Like not telling your best friend that you can’t stand her husband. Or not telling your boss that his breath smells like curdled milk.

But what about those times when the only reason we’re withholding information is for our own protection? How do we nudge ourselves out of the shadows of withholding and into the light of truth?

Case in point:

Melissa and I have an extremely open and honest relationship.

We tell each other everything. When Melissa first met me, she had yet to encounter anyone who could match her in the art of emotional processing. Indeed, she liked to think of herself as the Queen of Processing.

Not anymore.

That’s right, Goofballs. I may look like a king, but in the area of sharing the events of my life and the feelings engendered by them: I am the Queen.

photo: Frank Kovalchek on flickr

It is for this reason that I am always shocked and amazed – and a little unnerved – when I come upon a bit of information I don’t want to share with Melissa.

The other day this unusual occurrence happened not one, but two times.

The first time was in the area of bookkeeping. I’m the bookkeeper for the family, and in the process of working through a reconciliation of the bank statements, I realized I’d entered some of the data incorrectly.

My first thought was that Melissa didn’t need to know about it.

This was, of course, for my own protection. I wanted to look capable. I wanted to be worthy of the title of Bookkeeper for the Family of Goofball and Melissa. And yet I had proved – to myself, at least – that I was not worthy of this title. Or at least I had sullied my record.

Now, in realizing my mistake, I also realized a way to fix it. So why did Melissa need to know? What harm would it do to withhold this eensy-weensy bit of information from her?

You know when you get a little pebble in your shoe?

And you’re walking along, and all you can think about is the pebble? The sun might be shining brighter than it ever has before.

photo: Ibrahim Iujaz on flickr

The birds might be singing in four-part harmony.

But all of your attention is on the pebble.

That was what the rest of my day was like. I went about my business. I completed the tasks before me. And yet there it was, in the back of my mind:

Pebble pebble pebble pebble pebble pebble pebble pebble.

That night, I was taking out the recycling. This particular batch of recycling included two cardboard boxes that needed to be broken down at the recycling bin.

I decided to take a knife with me.

Melissa’s favorite knife.

I decided it would be a good idea to put the knife on top of the stack of recycled items.

I’ll remember to remove the knife once I get to the trash area, I told myself.

Oh yes, my friends. This is where it gets really fun.

So there I was, a Goofball walking to the recycling bin. A Goofball lifting the lid to the recycling bin. A Goofball dumping all the recycled items into the recycling bin.

Including Melissa’s favorite knife.

The minute it happened, the minute I realized Melissa’s knife was now at the bottom of a huge blue trash can, I heard it again. The same thought from earlier that day:

Melissa doesn’t need to know about this.

I couldn’t believe it. Twice in one day! What was happening to me?! Next thing I knew, I’d be robbing banks, kidnapping prize show dogs, cavorting with international espionage experts on the beaches of Cancun. And Melissa would know nothing about it.

I was witnessing the beginning of the end of our relationship, right there at the recycling bins!

Okay, I realize I was being more than a little dramatic. I told you I’m a Queen, didn’t I?

photo: Steve Snodgrass on flickr

But I also knew there was an element of truth to my hysteria.

One of the reasons that Melissa and my relationship works is that we keep the channels of communication open. Yes, it’s a cliché spouted by earnest therapists across the land, but that’s because it’s true.

I could feel my little pebble of dishonesty working a wedge between me and my sweetheart.

And I did not like it. Not one bit.

So what did I do? I marched back to the house and I told her everything. I told her about the bookkeeping snafu and I told her about the knife.

And she forgave me.

And she laughed.

And we went out to the recycling bin together, in the dark, to retrieve the knife.

Yes, it sucks to tell the truth sometimes. It can be hard and uncomfortable to reveal that you’ve made mistakes. And that you’re a dork.

But telling the truth is also awesome. It allows you to more fully accept yourself. And others. It allows you to stay bonded and connected to those you love.

And sometimes, if you’re lucky, telling the truth means you get to go fishing for an excellent knife at the bottom of a big blue trash can. With your sweetheart. In the dark.

What have you learned from telling the truth? How has it set you free?

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