The dictionary defines discretion as:
- the quality of having or showing discernment or good judgment; the quality of being discreet; circumspection; especially: cautious reserve in speech
- ability to make responsible decisions
- individual choice or judgment. (example: left the decision to his discretion)
- power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds (example: reached the age of discretion)
- the result of separating or distinguishing
I’m focusing on definition 1 – showing good judgment.
The reality is, one can live transparently and speak the truth, yet still be discreet. The factor that is involved is respecting the privacy choices of those around you.
Just because I am sick of hiding things about myself and my life, just because it was that hiding that meant I was able to blind myself to the amount of abuse I was experiencing, that doesn’t give me the right to be thoughtless or inconsiderate of other people’s life experiences.
I speak about only those ways that the actions of others have caused me harm. Yet, even in the speaking of those things, I can make assumptions or offer my own perspective of their choices – but I have to be honest enough with myself that I am speaking ONLY of my own perspective and my own opinion.
Whether I’m speaking of my ex-husband, or my parents, or my sister, I must be responsible enough to state publicly that these are my thoughts only, that the people I’m speaking of may have radically different perspectives of the same experiences. It’s impossible to keep them completely out of the public eye, because it isn’t that difficult to find out who the person is who is my ex, my parents or my sister.
Even with the fact that there are public records that show who my family members are/were, I can choose discretion in what parts of their lives I am willing to speak publicly about. I don’t have the right to publicize everything about them, just those choices that involve me.
But, when it comes to friends, co-workers or boyfriends/ex-boyfriends – there is more latitude there to keep their privacy intact.
And, I will admit, even though I’m willing to live my life transparently, I still get annoyed when someone else is indiscreet about my own life and experiences. It’s about choices. I can choose to be open and truthful about something in my life. But no one else has the right to express anything about my life unless I have given them permission to do so.
THAT, to me, is what discretion is about. The awareness that we each only have the right to state anything about ourselves, and situations that involve us – but do not have the right to publicize everything about those around us.
I talk about the abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex-husband. I have occasionally made reference to why he was abusive (his own childhood environment). But I don’t have a right to state EVERYTHING I know about him and his life, and his choices. Not in a public forum. I can speak about those things in a therapy session, where confidentiality is required. I can speak of those things to trusted friends or lovers where confidentiality is not just an expectation, but is part of the trust between us. I can speak of some of those choices with others who know exactly the same information that I do.
But I have no right to lay his life bare just out of spite or any sense of revenge.
It would be different if he were a danger that is hidden from the rest of the world. He’s not. His charming facade has some rather large cracks in it, and there are quite a few people who know exactly who and what he is. In fact, his current fiancee is well aware of his choices – because she lived with us since 2007. It’s her choice to stay with him. I have no right to tell her she can’t make that choice. I can warn her, her other friends can warn her – but it is her own choice, just like it was mine to stay with him for 20 years.
Privacy is important in this world. Especially since control of privacy changes rapidly. We have to be more aware of where we share information, as technology (and technological security) changes almost daily. We need to remember the courtesy of discretion.