Thursday, March 14, 2013

Can you Keep a Secret?

by Susanne Dietze
 Psst. I have a confession.

 Are you leaning in closer to the computer? Ok, here goes.
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Something I said recently came back to me, from another party, but the words had been twisted. The information attributed to me wasn’t what I’d said at all. It wasn't malicious, I'm sure. More like an old-fashioned game of Telephone.

Except the information I’d shared in the first place was personal. Nothing sinister or juicy, but nevertheless, something I’d requested to stay confidential. When it didn't, I felt so frustrated!

This has probably happened to all of us, and I imagine none of us like it very much. (Sometimes it’s an irritation, and sometimes we feel downright betrayed.) 

There’s a reason the Bible is full of verses on taming the tongue: it’s our human nature to gab. But it seems pretty clear God wants Christian to figure out when to speak and when to keep a confidence.

I looked up “confidentiality” in a few dictionaries, and I won’t bore you by listing all the definitions here. But each definition repeated similar words. Privacy. Secrecy. Intimacy. Trust.

Scripture tells us to be transparent and accountable to one another, yet I confess: I can be reluctant to open myself up to others and share private information—it's ammunition someone could easily use to hurt me. I need to feel I can trust someone before I can share with them that I’m struggling with an issue and I need help keeping accountable.

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. Proverbs 11:13

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How important is confidentiality to you?

  • Do you honor confidence in your relationships? Can a friend tell you something painful and trust you not to repeat it? 
  • Do you keep mum only if you'll get caught gossiping, but easily share the gossip with “non-involved parties” like hairdressers or manicurists?
  • In your family, do your spouse and children feel free to confide in you, assured that you will not share their struggles, fears, and embarrassing moments with your friends?
  • If you receive information about a person that shocks or confuses you, do you spread the word or handle the situation according to Biblical principles?
  • What about online? If you’re a writer like me, you probably receive a lot of tidbits from various loops. If you copy and paste them into emails, are you violating the author’s confidentiality? Does it cross your mind to ask permission of the author first?

 Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.  Proverbs 17:9

 I don't want to be separated from my close friends, so I'm going to work on keeping confidences where they belong. There are always exceptions, of course, but God's Word is a gentle reminder that He wants us to be trustworthy, faithful, and true blue.

 How good are you at keeping a confidence? 
 Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she writes in the hope that her historical romances will encourage and entertain others to the glory of God. Married to a pastor and the mom of two, Susanne loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, travel, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. She won first place in the Historical category of the 2011-2012 Phoenix Rattler, and her work has finaled in the Genesis, Gotcha!, and Touched By Love Contests. Susanne is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. You can visit her on her website,


  1. These are very tough questions. They shouldn't be but I always wonder if I've said anything thoughtlessly. I don't think I share confidences when something is personal or if someone has asked me not to. I don't think I'm guilty of that. But I wonder if I've done it casually when someone only 'hoped' I wouldn't share it.

    I find it difficult to keep quiet when someone's struggling. Not so much that I'm breaking a confidence, but that I feel like I'm talking about them behind their backs -even though it's all out of concern that they need help from someone besides me.
    My girlfriends and I call this 'doing an intervention'.

    I think sometimes when a person is not an extremely private person, they can very casually talk about someone else and never think about the fact THAT person may not want something shared.

  2. Good morning, Deb! I think thoughtlessness is one of the main reasons people break confidence. Confidences can be taken too casually.

    I agree, there is a difference between helping someone and gossiping. The intention of our hearts would be the yardstick of whether or not it's ok.

    And of course there are times when we absolutely cannot keep a confidence: in cases of abuse, suicidal thoughts, etc, we cannot and should not keep silent.

  3. secret: n something we share with one person at a time

    Actually, I'm a pretty private person, so I don't share much to begin with. Now whether that's good or bad that's probably a subject for a whole other post.

    I do feel sometimes like prayer requests can come dangerously close to gossip. We get busy sharing and ... oops. Sometimes it's hard to judge when we open our mouth out of concern, and when there's that little feeling of...superiority? pride? that we have something interesting to share.

  4. I agree with you about prayer requests, CJ. Sometimes when we share, we get carried away into Gossipland. What's the intention of our hearts? Are we sensing the Holy Spirit's urge to zip it?

  5. Gossiping through prayer requests . . . I've been guilty. The other day I was talking to a friend about something hubby had shared with me about another person who had talked to him in confidence. In my mind I reasoned it was okay because I wasn't focusing on that other person but why hubby would have told me this situation.

    But the reality was, I was probably still gossiping. Would it have been so if I hadn't used names?

    Anyhoo, I agree thoughtlessness is a big contributor to breaking confidences.

    Needed post, Susie!!! Yes, you stepped on my toes, but that's okay.

  6. i'm not very good at sharing secrets. i don't really have close relationships with people other than family either.

    i also never seem to be on the receiving end of gossip of any sort. i've joked with my co-workers that i'm the last grape on the "grape-vine" and get so little "juice" (ie. info or gossip), that i am more of a raisin.

    i think i like it that way. less heartache.

    i do have to keep a watch on my mouth though... i've inadvertantly spilled private info that i didn't know was private until the person confronted me - i felt so bad!!! thankfully, the person saw how dismayed i was and forgave me, but boy, was that a lesson for me. i always double check when people say something now. spillage is never good.

    good post!

  7. Sorry for stepping, Gina! Taming our tongues is definitely a spiritual discipline. Maybe this is a good post for Lent, LOL.

  8. Hi DebH! I'd say, be glad you're the last grape on the vine. The temptation to gossip can get to be overwhelming. It sure seems like women sometimes bond over gossip. I don't think that's what God wants for us.

  9. Ooh, good topic, Susie. I had a couple of lessons in this area several years ago and I haven't forgotten them. I try to be very judicious. But just today I was told something by a friend. She passed along something very nice a CEO had said about this other person. I immediately thought that I couldn't wait to tell her because it would encourage her a great deal. But the overall context of that conversation was more difficult, so I think I should ask for permission to share those comments. Your post helped me analyze this a little bit more.

  10. Well, I have strengths and weaknesses in this area. My weakness is that I'm not a very secretive person, so sometimes if someone shares a silly little secret, for example something that might embarass them or something seemingly inconsequential that they're just not ready to share, occasionally I forget that it's supposed to be a secret because the secretive nature of the issue just fails to resonate with me. Or a similar example would be, among my author friends I forget whose books and contracts I'm allowed to talk about and which ones are still supposed to be secret, so then I avoid talking about all of them.

    On the other hand, I'm kind of the go to girl for true deep, dark secrets. People at church have kind of figured this out. If you ask me not to tell my husband--I won't. I don't think one flesh goes that far. If you ask me not to tell the pastor--I won't. Even though I know he would expect me too. In fact, I'm glad I'm not in an official leadership position right now, because I always hated that tension between keeping the secret and knowing the pastor would expect me to tell. But I did keep them anyway.

  11. What an important topic. Loose lips cause so much damage not only as they hurt others, but as you point out, we can't really live into spiritual maturity if we aren't willing to be vulnerable with others, so they also hurt the spiritual growth of the Body.

    I like the verse, "The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools" - Proverbs 15:7. Our tongues really are a reflection of our hearts - thanks for the challenge to keep our hearts clean and our fellowship healthy.

  12. Hmm, Lisa, another twist: when to share comments of praise! Of course you want to encourage kind you are. I'm not sure what the overall context of the conversation was, but your thoughtfulness and consideration regarding whether or not to share will be appreciated, I'm sure.

  13. Dina, we need more people who hold deep, dark secrets to themselves. One of my best friends is that way. She never tells. I can trust her to keep a secret; it's been that way since I was 11. What a treasure that is!

  14. Karl, you are so right. It takes vulnerability to grow into Christian maturity, but to show vulnerability, we need to be safe. If only we could all do that for each other, be trustworthy and open.

    Great verse, too.

  15. In the past, I've violated a confidence, but I've learned as I've grown, and I certainly regret any harm that has come and hope and pray that never happens again.

    My job requires the utmost confidence, and it is difficult when people I know ask me questions about people they know (wanting to know if I know anything about them) and when I say I can't reveal any info they say: It's just me. You know I won't say anything.

    It makes for some upset people who are close relations.

    The other one that always bothers me is the well meaning and caring person who hears something in confidence (or overhears it) and takes it upon themselves to "ask for prayer" of the ladies in Bible study.

    Not a good feeling when everyone knows something you didn't want known.

    Great post, Susie, and I'm so sorry you were hurt.

  16. Suzie, I've blown confidences so many times! I hope I never do it again, but I'm sinful. I'm sure I'll blow it.

    We all know how it feels to be hurt by loose lips.

    I'm sorry about people pressuring you re: your job! In the medical field, confidentiality is essential, so I'm proud of you for sticking to your guns.

  17. Guilty as charged.

    I was garage sailing once and heard that the father of some kids we knew had died. I inadvertently shared this info with the next person I encountered before heading home. The next day, we found out that the father died overnight. What? Yes, he'd still been alive while we were garage-sailing, and whoever imparted that tidbit to me had been wrong. And I'd been wrong for sharing it.

    The part I can never forgive myself for is that same afternoon while I'd been garage sailing, an announcement was made at school expressing sympathy for the bereaved family. The man's daughters were at school and broke down as the news blared over the loud speaker. Their mother took them to the hospital where their father was still very much alive. But then he died later than night.

    I wasn't the one who started the rumour, but I'm just as guilty for hurting those girls because I helped spread it.

  18. Ugh. After living in a community that thrived and fed on gossip the way zombies crave brains, I came to the conclusion that if I don't want something "out there" I have no choice but to keep it to myself. Being me, however, that meant I just shared EVERYTHING about me all the time with everyone. Well... at least they couldn't make stuff up, the truth was usually more information than they wanted to hear in the first place, and juicier! :)
    And if someone wants to share a confidence with me, I tell them my husband will probably hear about it. He's more likely to forget about it than share it, but I feel like they should know.
    These lessons about taming the tongue need to be put on repeat at least quarterly... maybe once a month. It's a difficult animal to tame!

  19. Oh Anita, that entire scenario sounds just horrible. What a tragedy for that family. And then to have their father's death announced before it happened...

    You didn't know it was a rumor. You thought a member of the school community had passed away and your heart was broken for that family. I would probably have done the same.

  20. Niki, the tongue is such a difficult beast to tame. Daily I say things I shouldn't. Last week I said something I really, really shouldn't have said. I shouldn't have even thought it. I hate when I do these things.

    It's good when you can share with your husband. Most people do, I would guess. My husband can't tell me everything, though--pastorally, that wouldn't work out too well.


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