Be honest now, can you keep a secret? 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? Do you respect a person's 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. And 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 mark a person of integrity and trust, the ability to maintain confidences would rank very near the top.
A portion of the physician's Hippocratic Oath comes to mind: "And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession . . . if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets."
We would be justly offended by a doctor who treated our "holy secrets" lightly. The same applies to a minister or an attorney, a counselor or a parent, a teacher or a secretary, a colleague or a friend. Especially a close friend.
Solomon wrote some strong words concerning this subject in his Proverbs. Listen to his wise counsel and remember it the next time you are tempted to run off at the mouth:
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)
In light of these scriptural admonitions, I suggest we establish four practical ground rules:
1. Whatever you're told in confidence, do not repeat.
2. Whenever you're tempted to tell a secret, do not yield.
3. Whomever you're talking about, do not gossip.
4. However you're prone to disagree, do not slander.