My friends in recovery have a saying: "We are only as sick as our secrets.” I keep on hearing this, but I have a hard time accepting this idea. I have always wondered: After all, isn't it important to have some privacy? Sure, there is a value in asking advice from others, especially from professionals; but aren’t there some things in life that should be left unsaid?

I wonder no more. I was recently studying the first chapter of Ethics of our Fathers, and I came across the teaching of Rabbi Joshua, who said: "Provide yourself with a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend.” Based on this Mishnah, The Rebbe always emphasized the importance of getting a teacher, a mentor, someone who knows you intimately. Throughout the generations, our Kabbalistic masters have always encouraged us to pick a special person in our lives with whom we can discuss our deepest inner feelings, as well as areas of our lives that need improvement. In the 18th century, Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk recommended that everyone should have a trusted friend in whom he can confide, and to whom he can reveal all his thoughts—as well as his actions. By following such advice, we bring the inside out and we shed light on what is hidden.

Once again my friends in recovery made perfect sense because getting a teacher/mentor means having someone to tell everything to. Getting guidance based on limited information is like getting a phone number less one digit. We need outside help in order not to be fooled by the internal rationalizations that bribe us all into self-deceit. When I have a person in my life with whom I can share where I really stand, it helps me not to be overwhelmed. We all need to be wary of these internal misconceptions. With the help of a mentor (or a sponsor), I experience how much I gain by not holding onto any secrets. It's the two of us against the foolishness of my inner terrain. That inner terrain is called a "bad neighborhood" – and I should definitely try not go there alone. So having this type of relationship is probably one of the greatest safeguards against fooling myself.

But this teacher/confidant needs to know absolutely everything about me because, after all, I am only as sick as my secrets.