Peddling Secrets (Breaking Confidentiality)

Robert Wurtz II

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered (Proverbs 11:13 ESV).

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with uses flattery (Proverbs 20:19).

Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret (Proverbs 25:9 ESV).

Understanding and giving heed to these three verses from Proverbs could save you and I a lot of unnecessary grief and conflict. They have been recorded and transmitted through the ages for our instruction and benefit. Moreover, they are far-reaching in scope and apply to people of all walks of life.

It is likely that everyone has some information about themselves (whether that information is a day old or fifty years old) that they would prefer that it remain secret. Clearly, this is an ancient truth or the scriptures would not have addressed it at least three times in Proverbs alone. We all, to a greater or lesser degree, have secrets.

A simple English definition of a secret is something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown. The Hebrew word translated as secret(s) in Proverbs 11:13, 20:19, and 25:9 is sod and it means confidential speech. This word carries an emphasis on privacy (confidentiality). All three of our passages are dealing with revealing confidences.

When a person is reckless with confidential information or is willing to use it for their own purposes — that person is dangerous and is to be avoided. That is common sense — but Proverbs gives us some insights into the unfaithful people who peddle secrets.
One of those types is people who flatter you (Proverbs 20:19). The Hebrew word carries the idea of deceiving a simple-minded person. Flattery is used by so-called charming personalities to win people over to them or their cause. Understand that a smooth-talker can gain a person’s trust and thereby draw secrets from them under the guise of being a trusted confidant. A man who flatters his neighbor Spreads a net for his feet. (Proverbs 29:5 NKJV) Beware of people who flatter you — do not tell them anything confidential. Flatterers are commonly tale-bearers.

Sowing Discord with Secrets

There are ungodly people in the world who carry secrets from person to person — sowing strife and division among neighbors and relations. They tell confidential information that people have entrusted them with. How did they get the confidential information? By feigning to be the distressed person’s confidant. People trust that he/she is trustworthy in spirit and will keep the thing covered — but they are not trustworthy and they will not keep it covered. They will use the confidential information whenever they wish.

Peddlers of secrets know when people are vulnerable (distressed, upset, angry, in conflict with a friend of family member, etc.) and thereby know also that the person may (colloquially speaking) spill their guts. That is an informal way of saying that they unwisely tell all of their secrets. This is why we all need to be very careful who we reveal confidential information to. The ungodly exploit these unfair means to come to the knowledge of secrets. “Come on, you can tell me…” are usually the words of a devil.

I have known of people to throw out confidential information when trying to make a point — without revealing the person’s name. What says the scripture? Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret (Proverbs 25:9 ESV). We don’t need to break confidence in order to make a point. G.W. North offered sound advice to people who hear things in confidence, “Forget a minute after you hear it.” That way you won’t ever be tempted to use the information and break confidence.

If we are ever in a conversation with a person who says, “I could tell you some things about that person and you would _______” — we need to leave the conversation immediately. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered (Proverbs 11:13 ESV). If a person tells you secrets about others they will surely tell others secrets about you.

Some day God is going to sort all these things out. Yet I sometimes wonder, “What could be eviler than to use confidential information against the person who entrusted you with it? What kind of person (other than a politician) goes around collecting confidential information to use against people?” Maybe this ought to be a new definition of a dirt merchant… a person who peddles peoples’ dirt.

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