Keeping confidence is among the most important ingredients in good human relationships.
Very often before a person confides in me about something very personal, he would ask, “You will keep it confidential, right?”
There are occasions when it is necessary for us to disclose very intimate information about ourselves. To our accountants, we readily reveal our income, our investments and our mortgage payments. To our doctors, we detail to them our aches and pains. We even take off our cloths and let them listen, examine, cut open, radiate, shoot laser and do whatever else they deem necessary. To our dentists, we open our mouths wide, exposing our dentures, gold crowns and fillings. To our lawyers, we let them know how we plan to dispose our estates after we check into our mansions on High. To our counselors, we may share our childhood experiences, our sexual activities, our phobias, and our relationships with or spouses, children, parents and in-laws.
Why do we have such confidence in these experts? Besides believing they are competent, I think another reason is that we believe them to keep confidence. We believe they would not, in fact by law could not, disclose our information to others.
Is it coincident that the person whom we have confidence in is the same person who can and will keep confidence? Do not the two usages of the word “confidence” – have confidence in and keep confidence, tell us the relationship they have in each other? It seems natural that the ability to keep confidence inspires others to put their confidence and trust in you.
Long before I went into the ministry, I had learned of the importance of keeping intimate personal information in strict confidence. I knew that as a minister I would be privileged to know some very intimate information of people coming into my contact and if I were not careful in guarding the information, I would be betraying the confidence placed in me.
There are people who are now hurting in every church. Their hurts may involve a loss of some sort: job, loved ones, reputation, virginity, money, confidence, health, self-esteem, understanding, faith and time. Or they may involve issues related to transitions: adolescence, courtship, marriage, childbirth, parenting, promotion, in-between jobs, relocation, empty nest syndrome, retirement and bereavement. These people are looking for someone who cares enough to listen and who can keep confidence.
Are you willing to have a part in binding the wounds of these hurting people? Can you open your ears to them in their presence and then shut your mouth later in their absence? Are you willing to be a dead-end street where intimate information of others has no outlet?
There is a standing policy between my wife and me. We do not share with each other information which is revealed to us individually in confidence. Both of us feel there are people who may want to confide only in my wife or in me. We should honor their wishes. I respect couples who feel they should be completely open and accessible to each other’s information and they are upfront in letting others know about their stand before they begin to share anything personal. But I feel it is wrong for couples who share information of other people freely between them without letting others know of their practice.
The Bible exhorts us to bear each other’s burdens but it also explicitly warns us not to gossip, not be “going about from house to house” and not be “busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” (I Tim. 5:13)
Look around. Do you see people who are at the end of their road? Do you find them searching in vain for a way out?
Are you willing to be the kind of dead end street for them where they can park confidently and then make a turn-around in their lives?
Can you just open your ears to them and shut your mouth?