June 25, 2009
by Charles R. Swindoll
Can you keep a secret?
Can you? Be honest, now. When privileged information passes through one of the gates of your senses, does it remain within the walls of your mind? Or is it only a matter of time before a leak occurs? When the grapevine requests your attention from time to time, do you refuse to help it climb higher, or do you encourage its rapid growth, fertilizing it by your wagging, unguarded tongue? When someone says, "Now this is confidential," do you respect their trust or ignore it . . . either instantly or ultimately?
The longer I live, the more I realize the scarcity of people who can be fully trusted with confidential information. The longer I live, the more I value those rare souls who fall into that category! As a matter of fact, if I were asked to list the essential characteristics that should be found in any member of a church staff or officer on a church board . . . the ability to maintain confidences would rank very near the top. No leader deserves the respect of the people if he or she cannot restrain information that is shared in private.
Our minds might be compared to a cemetery, filled with graves that refuse to be opened. The information, no matter how juicy or dry, must rest in peace in its coffin, sealed in silence beneath the epitaph "Shared in confidence---Kept in confidence."
You and I wouldn't give a plugged nickel for a doctor who ran off at the mouth. The same applies to a minister or an attorney or a counselor or a judge or a teacher or a secretary . . . or a close, trusted friend for that matter. No business ever grows and remains strong unless those in leadership are people of confidence. No school maintains public respect without an administration and faculty committed to the mutual guarding of one another's worlds. When leaks occur, it is often a sign of character weakness, and action is usually taken to discover the person who has allowed his or her mental coffin to be exhumed and examined.
Information is powerful. The person who receives it and dispenses it bit by bit often does it so that others might be impressed because he or she is "in the know." Few things are more satisfying to the old ego than having others stare wide-eyed, drop open the jaw, and say, "My, I didn't know that!" or "Why, that's hard to believe!" or "How in the world did you find that out?"
Solomon writes strong and wise words concerning this subject in Proverbs. Listen to his counsel:
Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand. (10:14)
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise. (10:19)
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets,
But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. (11:13)
The one who guards his mouth preserves his life;
The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (13:3)
He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,
Therefore do not associate with a gossip. (20:19)
Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot
Is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble. (25:19)
Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit. (25:28)
From now on, let's establish four practical ground rules:
1. Whatever you're told in confidence, do not repeat.
2. Whenever you're tempted to talk, do not yield.
3. Whenever you're discussing people, do not gossip.
4. However you're prone to disagree, do not slander.
Honestly now, can you keep a secret? Prove it.
Reprinted by permission. Day by Day, Charles Swindoll, July 2005, Thomas Nelson, inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Purchase "Day by Day" here.