Saturday, May 18, 2013


Squirrel eating out of our
"squirrel proof" feeder

Over the years I've referred many people needing emotional help to Masterpeace Center for Counseling in Tecumseh, Michigan. I place my trust in Masterpeace's ability to heal broken marriages, families, and hearts. And, to keep such things to themselves.

Masterpeace's website has the following statement: "As trained, experienced Christian Professionals, we uphold confidentiality and maintain the highest level of ethical standards and practices." Note the words: "uphold confidentiality." This means no one has access to a client's information, unless the client signs a release form. Occasionally, a client has signed such a form giving me permission to speak with their counselor. Otherwise, it's none of my business.

When our sons were living with us Linda and I did not tell them about people we were counseling, unless (rarely) it directly involved them. Nor did we let them know if certain people were wounding us. We didn't want their hearts to take on someone else's offense (John Bevere has called this taking "the bait of Satan"). It was and yet is our goal to not share private, privileged information with anyone else, unless we needed to tell someone (like a parent) because of a greater urgency (like a teen child having suicidal thoughts). (Whenever that happened, and it did and it does, I would tell the teen I am counseling, "I need to tell your parents about this.")

This is one of the great burdens of leadership; viz., confidentiality must be kept, and not everyone will understand. If this is broken, catastrophic interpersonal results will occur. Imagine our country's president sharing all the details in the media of his "private" consultations with other world leaders! Were that to happen, no world leader or any leader for that matter would ever confide in our president again. And our nation would be at risk.

Confidentiality is a burden because there will always be some people who "want to know." They may be upset that they don't. It's painful, but a leader must resist the temptation to "show and tell" just to please some  inquiring mind.

Thankfully, there will also be people who understand that a leader cannot and should not let their organization or family or church or troops "know everything." These people are willing to trust leadership, and pray for leadership and the sometimes-agony of discerning how much to share and how much not to share. Such trust is a precious thing, built up over time, more valuable than money.

A blunt, yet truthful, response to someone who wants to know private details is: "It's none of your business." At worst, any person who wants to make every juicy crumb of another person's struggle their business is infected by a spirit of gossip and slander. That's right out of the destructive paparazzi-kingdom of darkness. This is the gossip Paul warns Jesus-followers about. (See here, and here.) Proverbs 20:19 says:gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much. Sadly, I have failed in this before  and learned the hard way.

It is, however, all of God's business. And God is a protector, a savior, who is always looking at the bigger picture of damaged lives and how to rescue them out of their bondage.

John Maxwell, in his book Relationships 101, says that to become a person of integrity you need to go back to the fundamentals, one of which is: "Commit yourself to honesty, reliability, and confidentiality." (65) Proverbs 11:13 says: gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. 

This is fundamental: Never share the struggles of someone else who has confided in you for help, unless they give you permission. Maintain confidentiality, and grow in integrity.