All conversations are not equal. Some carry more weight than others and can even determine the direction of one’s life – for good or bad. Because of this reality it is crucial for us to learn to have discernment concerning when we ought to be quiet about certain matters in a conversation.
This is not easy. Silence tends to make us uncomfortable and so we say anything to fill it up. If we talk about the wrong topic or information then we can do irreparable harm. Again, it is easy to know after the fact that “I should have not said anything” than it is on the front end of the conversation – unless you are alert to the temptation to speak when it is best not to say anything.
Someone said, “You’ll never hate sin until you see it’s consequences”. Our conversations are like that, too. We won’t realize the importance of being quiet until we see the consequences when we fail to do so. Pain and regret are great teachers.
Learning to be a good conversationalist is a very vital skill to learn, but it is just as important that you learn to be quiet during certain times. “Learning to speak several languages is not really as valuable as learning to keep your mouth shut in one!”, wrote someone.
In the next several posts I will give seven especially important times when it is important to be quiet. Each of them are self-evident, but we still struggle with them. I have geared my writing more to the family and each of these times to be quiet have an even greater importance in that arena of life.
Be quiet when you have confidential information. This, of course, refers to information that is to be secret and private that someone has shared with you because they have confidence in you that you will not tell anyone.
The Bible forbids one to pass on private disclosures that others have trusted you with – “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction”. (Proverbs 13:3) The word “keepeth” means to guard, protect, or conceal. We ought to guard, protect and conceal personal issues and not talk about them. Someone has trusted us with that information. Even in cases where you discover private information second-hand it still should not be passed on.
Our spouse and children (and parents) have a right to expect that what they share with us will be kept confidential. It only takes a few times to fail at this point to where your family will lose confidence in you and not trust you with personal information. Since trust is the glue of relationships, failure to keep confidences will hinder closeness in a friendship – or in a family.
I think it is just as important that parents keep private details of others from their children. Even a casual conversation between a husband and wife in the car or at the kitchen table can divulge private information that should never have been shared as little ears pick up on it. These are important times to be quiet!
The Bible speaks plainly on this subject – “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter”. (Proverbs 11:13)
A “talebearer” obviously is one that bears or carries stories or information to others. The word “secrets” has the idea of sharing personal and private details to an intimate circle of friends. The word “conceal” has the idea of withholding information that is confidential or damaging. This is a person that is “faithful” to his own character and loyal with his words to his friend or relative.
The older I become the more grateful I am that my parents didn’t dump any church gossip on our kitchen table while we had meals. I did learn about negative comments and accusations, but not from my parents. It was from the “talebearers” in our church. We had one lady that the entire church church knew of her reputation to gossip and criticize. Though I was a little boy I knew what she was doing was wrong. She was not trustworthy with private, personal information of others.
This is such a basic principle, but has lasting implications and consequences. You don’t have to share all that you know and you must not share anything that something has entrusted you with.
One of the guidelines I use in what I share with others is not only their “need to know”, but I also determine if they are a part of the solution. Even if someone has given me a green light to share with a few people, the strict guideline for me is whether or not that person is part of the solution. If not, I need to be faithful to the person that gave me the information and be quiet.
Sometimes secrets are used to establish a friendship. Secrets bind people; we feel privileged that someone has given us inside information. We feel trusted and special. However, this is a temporary situation because intuitively a thinking person will come to the conclusion – “If they will tell a secret to me about others, they will tell my secrets to others”. Ironically, the very thing that seemed to build a bridge between two people (sharing secrets) becomes the thing that weakens the friendship.
There are things that I will take to the grave that I know about people. As a pastor I am often in the middle of messy situations that involve very sensitive information. Without any disrespect to my wife whatsoever, I don’t tell her about these meetings. It isn’t because I don’t trust her, but I want her to be able to look at everyone with the same regard. Also, much of the information simply isn’t edifying and that doesn’t need to be dumped on her by me.
Parents, there are things we know about our children that we will take to the grave with us. It isn’t because we trying to protect the family name, but it is an issue of trust that they have in us. Sometimes we know things about our parents or siblings that never needs to be repeated. These are times to be quiet!
A spiritual leader confided in a man about a very hurtful and painful situation in his life that had happened years earlier. This confidante was his best friend and he trusted him implicitly.
A few hours later the leader’s phone rang in his office and it was another friend of his calling to speak with him. He regretfully told him that this man whom he had confided in had just told him everything that had been shared with him. The reason he called was that he wanted him to know that he ought not trust this man. It is obvious who the real friend was in this situation.
This was not a story I read in a book. I know all three of these people. The leader that was betrayed by his friend was never the same again. He resigned his job, lost his family and his life was been very painful. It all started with someone’s inability to keep a secret. Perhaps this should warn all of us to be cautious about who we share personal information with in the first place.
Next time someone trusts you with personal information, keep their confidence in you. Be quiet. You will be glad you did.