An appropriate practice of keeping secrets is certainly one which we have largely lost in this social media age. I am careful to say “appropriate” because there are certainly times when secrets ought to not be kept – secrets regarding abuse, for example. Other than in cases such as abuse, there is something to be said for keeping confidences and for being someone that others know they can trust as a result of how quick you are to hold close to your chest those things which are told to you in confidence.
However, this practice is increasingly rare in our modern culture. There is a common saying, “If you don’t post about it, did it really happen?”, which can lead many of us to turn to social media, our blogs, or even podcasts to dish about what someone did. This is not at all what God intended for us. We see throughout the Word that He applauds a humble secrecy. For example, we see this when addressing what we do in our personal walk with Him. Giving in secret (Matthew 6:1-4), praying in secret (Matthew 6:5-6), meeting with Him in the secret place (Psalm 91, Matthew 6:6), and guarding the secrets of others (Proverbs 11:13) are all topics addressed by Christ and in the Word as a whole.
How, then, do we return to the secret place with those things which are meant to be sacred and not revealed? When deciding whether it is appropriate to share and when it is right to hold back here are four things to consider:
Is this loving?
When assessing whether or not it is appropriate to share what you know, ask yourself how sharing about the topic at hand would hold up to God’s definition of love: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).
Would sharing a little tidbit of knowledge about someone be a loving thing to do to him or her? If so, maybe consider sharing it in an appropriate fashion. If not, best keep the knowledge to yourself.
Does this stand up to the Philippians 4:8 test?
Philippians 4:8 is another great litmus test when it comes to whether or not to share a secret you are privy to. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Does what you want to share stand up before a test such as this one? If so, it might be okay to share about it. If not, best keep it to yourself.
Is this gossip, hearsay, or slander?
Proverbs 11:13 minces no words – “A gossip goes around revealing a secret, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.” Leviticus 19:16 says, “Do not go about spreading slander among your people; do not jeopardize your neighbor’s life; I am the Lord.” If what you are wanting to spread around is mere gossip and hearsay or if spreading it would cause unfair slander against someone, keep the secret.
Will my sharing this benefit others and glorify God or will it harm others and dishonor God?
This is the ultimate question to ask. We should always be on mission to do and say what is honoring to God and what is good for others. If sharing something we have heard can stand up to such a serious test as this one, then we can freely share as the Spirit directs us to. Otherwise, we would be wise to keep the secret and not further the gossip.
It may not come naturally to have gossip and hearsay stop with us, but it’s important. We can save people’s lives, their reputations, and our relationships if we would but keep confidences as God intended. One final note to all of this is, again, love does rejoice in the truth. If there is a case of abuse occurring, it is the right and loving thing to do to report it. That is the one kind of secret that is not appropriate to keep. In all other cases, however, we would do well to learn the lost art of secret-keeping.