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September 10, 2022
When Does a Private Life Become a Secret Life?
By Jeanne Harrison

Everyone has a public life and a private life. I used to believe the more these two spheres were the “same,” the more authentic the person. John Smith is publicly generous and privately generous. He’s the real deal! 

But that’s not necessarily true. 

I’m not the exact same wife publicly as I am privately. I don’t fight with my husband publicly. I don’t tell him about my sin on social media so we can discuss it in front of everyone. I do those things privately. We have private fights, private jokes, private failures and sorrows. We have a whole private life together. Does that mean we’re inauthentic? Of course not. 

There’s a difference between honesty and transparency. Christians aren’t called to unfettered transparency. We’re allowed to keep our private lives private, and we’re wise to do so. The problem arises when a private life becomes a secret one. Over the years I’ve had several conversations with people who harbored secret lives for a season. 

Here’s what I learned.

Sin is not passive. 

The Bible personifies sin as an active adversary, one that “seizes” opportunities for deception, “crouches” at the door, “desires” to have us, “ensnares” and “entangles” (Romans 7:11, Genesis 4:7, Hebrews 12:1).

Sin lies in wait for us – for weary moments when tensions mount and defenses fall. It seduces, one small lie at a time, and so the Bible warns: Be sober-minded. Watch yourself. Stay awake. Be on guard. Stand firm (I Peter 5:8, Luke 21:34-36, I Corinthians 16:13-23).

A private life in danger of becoming a secret one is marked by passivity. We’re unguarded. We minimize and rationalize sin. We don’t care what the Bible says. It’s normal for fallen humans to experience bouts of passivity from time to time. But if our relationship with God is marked by ongoing, unchecked passivity, the Bible’s message is clear: Wake up. 

A secret life is less about passivity, and more about actively hiding sin. People leading secret lives know what they’re doing. At least that’s what they’ve told me. It’s the natural progression of sin. There comes a point when we can no longer deny it, and we have to intentionally hide it. James 1:14-15 describes the progression: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” 

Notice the four stages in James’s progression: temptation, evil desires, active sin, death. I believe it’s possible to course-correct at every single stage. The consequences vary dramatically depending on how quickly we course-correct. Turning from “evil desires” before acting on them could mean the difference between a saved marriage and a lost one, or an apology to a boss versus a lawsuit. 

But even if someone has already experienced “death” because of sin – whether it’s the death of a relationship or reputation – it’s not too late to course-correct. As long as there’s air in our lungs, we can come back from sin. Look at the prodigal son (Luke 15). God delights in bringing life out of death. It’s the story of our salvation and sanctification.

Where have your boundaries fizzled? Where are you weak, tempted, or depleted? Be on guard. Where have you already crossed the line? Bring it to light. Press into godly relationships where you can be honest about your sin without fear of judgment. 

We are not alone in our war with sin. 

During a hard season in my life, I remember trying to manage my sin alone. I just kept shoving it down like a beach ball in the pool – again and again – no matter how many times it popped back to the surface. I suppressed the truth, until one day, I realized I was drowning. When I couldn’t deny or “manage” my sin any longer, I finally brought it to light and cried out to Jesus. 

The next time I found myself in a similar situation, I did something different. I confided in my husband immediately, then called a trusted friend and was brutally honest. We prayed together, right then. I was braced for a long, suffocating battle with sin, but this time, the power was gone before it could sprout wings and grow. 

James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Sin is not indomitable. We just have to bring it to light. And trust me, one way or another… 

Sin always comes to light. 

Whether we own it or hide it, the truth will surface. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17). 

If you’re blurring the lines of obedience, or edging from a private struggle with sin into a secret life of sin, be brave and face the truth. You don’t have to broadcast your private life to your public audiences. But confide in a trusted friend, and certainly, take it to Jesus. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (I John 4:18). 

There’s no punishment waiting for those who are in Christ Jesus. On the other side of honesty, there’s only freedom.

Visit discovergrace.com/next to learn more about the ministry of Grace, find a local campus near you, and take your next step toward Christ.

 

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