January 11, 2017
A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret
14 For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.
Let me ask the question, “Am I a trustworthy person? Are you?”
I will always remember one of the happenstance lessons taught me by one of my mentors, the late Ellsworth Kalas. I served on his Cabinet throughout his term as the President of Asbury Seminary. In those days we were navigating our way through the complexities of recovering from a profound crisis at the school. Our leadership team held many highly sensitive conversations which required the highest degree of confidentiality. On the heels of these conversations Dr. Kalas, reminding us of the need for absolute confidentiality, would say, “Do you know how many people hear about something when one person betrays a confidence and tells another person?” As he said “one person” he held up the index finger of his left hand, and as he said “another person” he held up the index finger of his right hand, placing it right next to the left one. Referencing his two fingers, now two straight lines next to one another, he answered his own question, “Eleven.” (Try the gesture out for yourself).
There’s probably not a person reading who does not consider themselves a trustworthy person. We highly estimate our ability to keep the confidences of others. We all know “gossips” but we would never consider ourselves to be one. The problem most of us have when it comes to confidentiality is we somehow do not consider it a breach to just tell one other “trustworthy” person. See how it happens? Next they tell just one other trustworthy person, and within the span of a day eleven people have been brought into the circle.
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.
Let’s call a spade a spade. Telling one other person betrays a confidence, and betraying a confidence makes us a gossip. So why do we do this? Why would I entrust you with information another person asked me to keep confidential? At least two reasons come to mind. First, something in me wants you to know that I’m in the know. It’s a not so subtle way of conveying my own sense of self-importance to you. Second, I want you to know that I trust you implicitly and that you can trust me implicitly. This has a way of spreading rapidly, and the further down the chain from the original source, the easier it is to share with one other person.
Do you see the tragic irony here? Trust simply can not be built on betrayal. Let’s call it the “‘One Other Person’ Confidentiality Crusher Principle.”
So let me ask the question again, “Am I a trustworthy person? Are you?”
Abba Father, we want to be worthy of trust. I confess that something broken in me thinks I can gain the trust of one person by betraying the trust of another. Would you reveal that broken place to me and lead me in a way of working through it toward healing. Shape me with the trustworthiness of your son. It is in his name I pray. Amen.
1. Why do people not consider it a breach of confidentiality when they tell one other person whom they consider trustworthy? What is it in me that causes me to do this?
2. When a friend entrusts you with another person’s confidential information how does that impact the trust you have in your friend?
3. How might I become a person of the strictest, most loyal confidentiality. How might I become a person worthy of the confidence of others?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.