CLEANSE THE THOUGHTS of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit," the collect goes, "that we may perfectly love" if not thee, because we are such a feckless and faithless crowd most of us, then at least ourselves, at least each other. If, as someone has said, we are as sick as our secrets, then to get well is to air those secrets if only in our own hearts, which the prayer asks God himself to air and cleanse. When our secrets are guilty secrets, like the burden [of expecting too much from them] I had unwittingly placed on my own children, we can start to make amends, to change what can be changed; we can start to heal. When they are sad and hurtful secrets, like my father's death, we can in a way honor the hurt by letting ourselves feel it as we never let ourselves feel it before, and then, having felt it, by laying it aside; we can start to take care of ourselves the way we take care of people we love. To love our neighbors as we love ourselves means also to love ourselves as we love our neighbors. It means to treat ourselves with as much kindness and understanding as we would the person next door who is in trouble.
- Originally published in Telling Secrets