You conducted a background check on someone and found out he or she has a criminal conviction. It might come have come as a surprise but then you learn that 1 in 3 Americans has a criminal conviction and then you shift your surprise to the fact that this person didn’t tell you!
While some people might be keeping that secret for sinister reasons, others may have sympathetic reasons for keeping their criminal past hidden from you.
Here are four reasons why people hide criminal offenses that we can sympathize with:
Our reputations largely determine what someone, such as a potential partner, or new friend, will think of us. When it becomes known that one has a criminal conviction on his or her record, that person’s reputation takes a hard hit. As life goes on, people change. Mistakes are realized and people don’t want a bad moment to hold them back from a job or romantic relationship. It doesn’t make it right, but it’s one reason why someone might be hiding that secret.
2. Emotional Pain
In 2014, the FBI reported that that year saw “the highest number of arrests was for drug abuse violations.” For many who’ve been arrested on drug possession charges, often a mental illness or severe emotional pain was the culprit that got them in that situation. Choosing not to disclose that they were once an addict might be, once again, because of emotional pain. Remember that everyone has secrets, some too heavy to tell an acquaintance or even someone they might know well.
Everyone makes mistakes. It’s just that some make bigger mistakes that land them in jail. And one of the feelings we can all relate to after making a mistake is regret. Take for example the young person pressured by a friend to shoplift, and then soon greatly regrets that decision. Regret can be a good thing though, if coped with correctly. Regret is the brain’s way of making us look at our choices. If you’re someone hiding a criminal conviction because of regret, getting that secret off your chest might just be the antidote.
You know someone has been arrested or convicted of a crime, but it’s not appearing on his or her public record. Why is this? Well, it is possible for one to virtually erase a crime from his or her past, or at least from the public record. It’s a process called expungement and it takes some hoops to jump through. But it may explain why the criminal incident doesn’t appear and even why the person may not consider it an open issue, because technically that conviction doesn’t exist.
It’s very likely you know someone with a criminal record. You just might not know he or she has a criminal record. It could be that this person doesn’t want to share a secret that causes emotional pain, or could damage his or her reputation.
Before jumping to conclusions, consider the reasons above that may have kept someone from being forthright with you—based on the data, this situation may be a lot more common than you think.