So, have you ever been blackmailed?  Chances are very few if any of us have faced such a life altering event.  That situation where someone or some group has taken something from you and is threatening to expose you to the world unless you pay up some huge amount of ransom in return for what’s been stolen.   A quick study of past and recent history would suggest that most of the time these types of cases seem to be reserved for the wealthy and famous people of our society. The good news is that this leaves most of us somewhat insulated from ever having to face the agonizing and debilitating effects of dealing with such a traumatic life event.  Sometimes it can be as devastating as a loved one being taken hostage while at other times it can be something as intangible as our reputation being called into question .  Yet in both cases the stakes are high and those involved are often left to deal with the paralyzing and suffocating threat of being exposed.   Could it be though the largest and most pervasive threat that looms over us is ourselves?  Could it be that we routinely engage in acts of self-extortion?  Here me out on this.  To the degree that we hide behind our weaknesses or those nagging irrational fears we are in effect blackmailing and holding ourselves hostage.  We are extorting our strengths and rational thinking in exchange for the ransom of a promise.  A promise that no one will ever find us out!  We take the best of ourselves and begin to believe the worst because we listen to the irrational lies that tell us we must be the only one who struggles with…name your weakness or irrational fear.  It’s as if we are trying to keep a secret from the world.  This is an oppressive posture to live under.  It too is suffocating, paralyzing and can be debilitating.  So what can we do about it?  Well I think we can turn to the “secret” for the answer.  Noodle on this for a minute.  If someone has a secret and lets the secret be known to even just one person there is no more blackmail.  The energy gets taken out of the secret as it goes from darkness into the light.  The value of the information being held no longer has a stranglehold on us because we’ve shared it.  So lead with transparency.  Let others know what you’re struggling with.  Invite them into your life.  Don’t let the enemy win by taking the rational and making it irrational in your mind.  Pursue authenticity. Live in the light of day. You’ll be stronger for it!  Peace.