Discipline of Secrecy


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by Joe Priola

Yo, check me out!

An atheist, a CrossFit athlete and a vegan all walk into a bar….  And the only reason I know is because they told everyone in the bar within two minutes!

Have you ever met someone like that? We live in a world where we want everyone to see and to know our best.  It feels good to inform others of how cool our life is, how blessed we are, or what great things we’ve contributed to the world.  Of course, it’s probably not you or me that are like this.  It’s probably that other person you know who seems to love posting all of their epic life on social media.

But why are we as humans – at least 21st century Americans – so prone to let the whole world know just how fantastic our life looks through various lens filters and clever tweets?  It seems like there are days in my life when I suck up as much wifi bandwidth as I do oxygen in order to let others know just how epic my life is.

Please don’t get me wrong.  Using something like social media or a pipeline of friends to open up to others isn’t a bad thing per say.  There is an appropriate place and time to share fun news, crazy adventures and thoughtful reflections.  But there seems to be line that we can cross when we feel compelled to show others how funny or generous we are.  We can go out of our way to be recognized for our wit, fortunes, intelligence, or our good deeds for others.

There just isn’t enough space in this little article to unpack all the reasons behind all of this behavior, but simply put, it seems we yearn to be loved and admired.  And that’s not an all-bad thing.  Yet we can sometimes crave the attention and praise in a strange, twisted kind-of-way.

Must everything be publicly broadcasted for our personal gain (or for the downfall of others)?


Believe it or not, there is personal and corporate benefit to our ability to refrain from declaring everything to everyone.  And this is a discipline that you can practice to help make you more like Jesus.  Secrecy can be beneficial.  Secrecy is practicing the spirit of Christ reflected in hiddenness, anonymity, lack of display and holding of confidences.”[1]

“hiddenness, anonymity, lack of display and holding of confidences”

Jesus valued and practiced secrecy. Several times he exhorted others to keep his marvelous work on the down low (Mark 1:44; 9:9; Luke 8:56).  Additionally, he encouraged others to consider not always broadcasting their own good deeds (Matt 6:34). Why would he tell folks to be more discerning about who and when and what we tell?

When we go out of our way to make our works recognized then it certainly can cease to lose its purpose in simply doing it for our Heavenly Father.  It can often become less about ministering to God and blessing others.  Making our work or thoughts public can even become more about leveraging for our own future benefits or accolades.

God knows our hearts and our deeds. And just he alone knowing should be good enough for us more times than not.

Secrecy can be liberating. It can provide freedom from a compulsion to be known, recognized or praised.  It can foster a perspective of remaining more others-centered. It can also help alleviate the spread of hurtful gossip, rumors and slander when we learn to speak when necessary.[2]

Secrecy has great power. It demonstrates that not all good deeds need public recognition or praise.  Secrecy allows for us to be more unburdened from the weight of our expectations we may place on others for returned favors. Developing a healthy habit of secrecy can make you a more trustworthy and safe person for others to open up to.

Secrecy can be healthy. One can develop a greater sense of peace and assurance of acceptance from the Lord rather than competing for attention or notoriety from others. It can strengthen the bond we can have with God by deepening our intimacy with him through surrendering our need to be needed or affirmed by others. Instead, we find it in Christ. It can help develop self-control while avoiding competition or comparison with others.

Practicing Secrecy

As in all spiritual growth, it starts by admitting that we would like God to help us both learn more about, as well as to mature in order to be more like him.  Even in practicing secrecy, I simply ask God to help me to change me in whatever specific ways I want to be disciplined. This surrendered life is where the rubber meets the road in our spiritual vitality and growth. And this is where disciplines (or practices) are critical to helping me be more like Jesus.

Spiritual disciplines are a means of opening our lives up to God for him to access more of us. They can have an inward dynamic that is private in posture, an outward effect that help our engagement with the world, as well as a collective benefit for our body life and worship.  All spiritual disciplines are ways or means of him graciously taking our hearts and dispositions and tuning them more towards his heart and the way of life in the kingdom of God.[3]

So, how can we slow and even defeat the compulsion to be seen, known, envied and affirmed? How can we more easily unfetter ourselves from the constant need to self-elevate on social media?

One simple way is to take up the discipline (or exercise) of Secrecy.  Begin by meditating or chewing on the verses at the conclusion of this, as well as the following:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV)

Some practices you can take up:

·  Ask God to show you areas where you tend to need acknowledgement or accolade.

·  Find some places you can serve that don’t require you needing to let others know what you have done or why you have done it.

·  Be mindful to honor confidentiality.

·  Take a break from social media.

·  Talk about  the work and accomplishment of others (and don’t bring up your own)

A few verses to consider:

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.  (John 3:30, NLT)

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.  (Matt. 6:6)


Joe Priola has served as a team leader with Cru for a number of years in the San Diego area. In his free time you can find him surfing and spending time with his beautiful family.




[1] Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Spiritual disciplines handbook. Practices that transform us. Downers Grove, IL: IVP 2005, 104.

[2] Calhoun, 105.

[3] Ibid.