Saturday, February 6, 2010

Can Personal Journals Be Too Personal?

Not long ago, I expressed my feelings here about the importance of keeping personal journals to pass down as faith-promoting legacies for our posterity. After discussing the subject with a few people, a question came up for me in regard to the degree of self disclosure that might be advisable. In other words, what degree of knowledge from our predecessors actually would be good for what ails us and what degree might be disturbing, discouraging, or disillusioning? I do have some friends and relatives who found themselves troubled by information to which they became privy only after a loved one's death, information they sincerely wish they didn't have. There's also the question of protecting writer privacy––as well as the privacy of those around that writer––bystanders who might be mentioned in the record (for good or for ill).

With this in mind, I have perused my journals and chosen the ones pictured above for disposal. Sure, it causes me a little bit of a tug, but upon serious reflection, I concluded there was either material in these particular journals that my children would not want to know, material which would not be helpful to them, or material which might cause them to misunderstand or even judge a given person or situation. They happen to be prayer journals, and as such, they were pretty raw and unedited at times. Some things cannot be seen clearly without the full context, and I have judged accordingly in making my decisions.

The good news is that my children, their children, and their children's children will still have more than enough to read from me in the form of books, poetry, and additional journals. They will not have to come across those details of my various life struggles that might be unsettling or even painful for them to experience second-hand.

So there you have it. And you'll be glad to know that I will be placing each one, with a full sense of my ecological responsibility, into the recycle bin Sunday night.

Bon voyage, prayer journals! You have filled your purpose.



VK said...

I don't think I have as many personal journals as you have journals to throw away.
Again, you are wise, and sometimes we should all reflect on the necessity to divulge non-helpful information. Whether it be in the form of a sharp tongue, or the written word we should think hard before sharing.
I suppose it is a form of gossip, even though it is how we feel at the time, because it doesn't serve others well.
Thank You

karen said...

i've had this same thought myself. I have some writings I think I should ultimately dispose of, too. Good call.

Jess said...

That thought has never crossed my mind, not that we have a rich family history of journal keeping, least of all me. The fact that some of the things I write may be less than helpful to anyone has now entered my mind- hopefully causing more caution

jen said...

It makes me cringe a little inside, knowing you are throwing away personal history. How can you be sure it won't help or influence someone later? But I guess you have such an abundance of journals that it is okay. Me? Not really an option.
I think it's funny that with this talk of paring down your journals that the comment word is prunet. :)

Sue said...

Maybe the best solution is to have both: a journal in which you exercise no caution (like the ones I'm disposing of) and a journal which is more "cautious."

The thing is, I really needed a place to let it all hang out in those journals I'm getting rid of, as they were prayer journals. (I like to pray in writing when life gets especially grueling, because I somehow think more clearly and process feelings better when I'm writing.) But future prayer journals will likely be for my use only. Journals for posterity, in which I am musing, recording, learning, etc. will still be open and honest, but not without any restraint at all.

I'll sort of have to navigate my way through this until I figure it out.

Jill said...

Yikes, that's hard to do. But I understand because I have also burned a few of mine. They had served their purpose to me and I really don't want anyone else ever reading them.

KC Mom said...

Whoa. That is a huge thing to give up but I do believe you're right for doing it. I have a journal given to me by my friend Nat. In it I write my anger. It's probably not one that I should leave for other's to read, but I think I'll hold on to it long enough to read it for myself a bit more.

KC Mom said...

Whoa. That is a huge thing to give up but I do believe you're right for doing it. I have a journal given to me by my friend Nat. In it I write my anger. It's probably not one that I should leave for other's to read, but I think I'll hold on to it long enough to read it for myself a bit more.

Lisalulu said...

that seems the right thing to do. I'll have to mention that to my girls for them to do with their journals as well. Thanks for the good wishes, all is well.

Dallin said...

It seems like everyone is agreeing here, so I'm going to be contrary and disagree. Ornery, I know. But while I have torn pages out of journals, I have also read raw details in old journals that helped me a lot. It helps me to know that some of the best people I have known have had moments of weakness-- they have judged others, felt insecure, been very frustrated, experienced depression and done bad things. Knowing these things has helped me get a grip on reality and realize that I, like them, can overcome rough times. Those entries have been some of my most treasured-- almost like Nephi's "O wretched man that I am" comments in 2 Ne. 4.

All the best with the recycling plan, though. If it's not too late, maybe you could consider taking them camping and cooking hotdogs or marshmallows over the fire. Watching all those journals go up in flames could be kinda therapeutic.

Karen said...

Wish I had a few just to pass down. Hopefully my blog will suffice.

The purge probably feels good. like taking some of those raw moments and getting rid of the weight.

Sue said...

I agree, Dallin, that it's good to make our journals authentic and real. I am and will continue to be a proponent of not whitewashing our life experiences when we write for our posterity, and I do think they will find it strengthening to see that others have gone through hard times and come out well on the other end.

Even taking that into consideration, though, these particular journals need to go. No doubt in my mind! (And don't worry...there are plenty more where those came from.)


PS. I do like your idea about roasting marshmallows over them...

Just ME the MOM said...

I've been known to dispose of a few journals over the years myself. I think all my positive creations - the blog, my endless photography books, even the notes, letters and many scrapbooks I've compiled will have to be my legacy . . . hopefully they will meet whatever future need to study 'my journal' there could ever be . . . (can't even imagine)


Michelle said...

Sometimes a journal really is just for us. I trust your judgment on this!

Darlene said...

Oh my gosh, I hate to think of you getting rid of anything you have written. I do understand though, and I must confess that I have destroyed some of the stuff I have written down. It must be genetic because when I am really having a hard time, I often use writing as a method of getting it all out of my system. It does help, but I don't usually keep that particular piece of writing around for any length of time. After I have read it over a few times, I can usually decide that whatever I was writing about can be made better and sometimes it will be destroyed the same day.

You made me realize though that perhaps I had better go through my jounals and papers a bit more carefully.

I kinda like Dallin's idea of just tearing out the too personal parts. Surely there would be something that might be helpful to your posterity within some of those pages.

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