Have you ever had to keep a secret? It’s not always easy. Recently my 9 year old daughter asked me if keeping a secret was a sin. She asked me if it was okay not to tell me something that a friend had told her. I asked her whether keeping the secret would harm or hurt someone else and she said no, so I advised her not to break her friends trust. A few days later she mentioned that her friend was scared to tell her Mother about what had happened because it involved a piece of jewelry that was special to her Mom. It was then that I told my daughter that she should probably encourage her friend to come clean with her Mom. Through this whole ordeal, I was impressed that my daughter never did tell me the complete details of the secret as she had promised her friend that she wouldn’t tell.
A few years ago I felt the sting of betrayal when a secret of mine was shared without my permission. The person I had confided in thought it would be helpful to share this with a prayer group, but this prayer group consisted of people that I hadn’t wanted to share this particular information with. I felt exposed and angry, though the friend I had originally shared my secret with didn’t see the harm in her actions. In this sad situation, the trust of a secret was turned into an opportunity to gossip, as I soon found out when my ‘secret’ was shared around to an even wider circle of people.
I’ve also had many people share very deep, dark secrets with me. I had a friend confide in me about her husband’s infidelity; another time it was a friend who struggled with an addiction to pornography. More recently, an acquaintance asked if she could share with me about an emotional affair that she was beginning to find herself embroiled in. I take this confidence very seriously, though I also understand how hard it can be to keep private information, private. The temptation to gossip is often there and can be hard to resist.
So, when my daughter came home and asked me if it was a sin to keep a secret, it made me wonder what the Bible says about secrets? Surely, God keeps secrets from us! As we know, there are many things that He says He won’t reveal to us, and things that are on a sort of ‘need to know’ basis. How about Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden? He didn’t tell them WHY they shouldn’t touch the fruit, just that they shouldn’t. There are countless times in the Bible when secrets are kept for good and for not-so-good reasons. Even Jesus instructed the two blind men that he healed in Matthew Chapter 9 not to tell anyone what He had done. The one common denominator in the Bible on this theme though, is that gossiping or slandering another is always wrong: “Whoever slanders his neighbour in secret, Him will I put to silence” Psalm 101:5
The Bible also talks about how impossible it is to keep secrets from God, and that there really isn’t any point in trying. He expects us to reveal His secrets to Him if they require repentance, but even when they don’t, He knows what’s going on with us anyway!
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” Proverbs 28:13
I believe that God will honour us for keeping secrets for other people, though encouraging them to repent and offering to pray for them if the secret involves sinful behaviour. In the cases where I was made privy to very private, potentially damaging information there was always a temptation to run and tell someone. Knowing it wasn’t my place to do so, I didn’t break the trust of those who had confided in me. I did, however, pray with and for that person and encourage them to seek help. In these tricky and ‘secretive’ situations, I think that is the best we can do. And, be careful who you dish your dirt too .. you never know who won’t be able to resist the urge to gossip!