the baby and the bathwater

Wisdom 7: Secrets
March 17, 2009, 1:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret (Proverbs 11:13)

Someone once said that knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can influence people. The more you know, the more you can throw your weight around and get your way. The more you know, the more you can manipulate circumstances towards your own end.

It’s intoxicating. To be on this inside. To hear the secrets first. To get the low-down first hand from the movers and shakers in this world. And to be able to position yourself to benefit from it all.

How often have you shared a story, a piece of information with someone, and their response is ‘I knew that ages ago’. It seems to rob you of power, doesn’t it? Suddenly you are not so important. There has been a power shift. Someone else got there first. Someone else is closer on the inside. Then it’s so tempting to hunt around harder for the next big story. To get there first next time. To reclaim the place of power, of influence, of knowledge. And the dangerous spiral of gossip begins.

So maybe it’s not too strange that, in this world of power games, we seem to be encouraged to be people who can keep secrets. But something about it doesn’t seem to be quite Christian does it? Surely we’re meant to be transparent, open, honest. Real with each other. We don’t have secrets in this family after all.

But let me throw this out there: the ability to keep things secret is the foundation for trust; the ability to hold on to information and not use it as part of a power game is the foundation for friendship; the ability to keep things close to your heart is purposeful, intentional loyalty.

My wife and I have kept a secret from my youngest daughter Sarah for the last month. She found out today – her birthday – what it was (a trip to a holiday park for 4 days including swimming pools, water slides, and to have lessons in one of her ambitions: fencing). You should have seen the joy on her face when she found out. My eldest daughter and I have a little secret at the moment. No one knows except her and I. We have kept it between ourselves and it is helping us develop a stronger father-and-daughter trust. And of course once my wife reads this blog, she will know we have a secret. And she will ask me what it is. And I won’t tell her.

In leadership, the ability to keep secrets is totally, totally crucial to what we do. The ability to retain information without feeling the need to pass it on is at the heart of loyalty. And loyalty in leadership is fundamental. You can’t operate without it. You just can’t tell anyone your secrets. Not even ‘just for prayer’.

Because the ability to keep a secret is the mark of a trustworthy man.

What’s your secret?


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