Confidence Games

“Now don’t tell anyone. Keep it confidential.” In my business I hear that all the time. In many cases my gift of absentmindedness helps me keep things confidential. But there are other occasions – perhaps even the majority – where keeping information confidential is downright unhealthy.

As a pastor I sometimes hear – second or third hand – that something is going on in congregation. Group X is unhappy with Y, Joe & Mary Blow are fixing to have a divorce, the John & Suzy Doe are having financial problems, etc. But don’t say a word. We want to keep it confidential.

Now when it comes to youth ministry, this stuff is easier since youth are often more teachable than their elders. When a youth comes and offers to tell me something if I’ll “keep it confidential” the best response is, “I’ll use my wisdom to decide if I can keep it confidential or not.” In many cases, what they need is someone to stand beside them as they open up to their parents or someone else. Usually they need help and my just getting the information won’t do them any good. I need to connect them with a source of help. In such situations I never go behind their backs but always try to be up front about the healthfulness of opening up.

Of course, sharing information with parents isn’t always wise. In my years of ministry I’ve seen too many instances of an informed parent thinking the solution is to beat the child. In those cases keeping the information confidential is essential – but it’s still helpful to find places for them to be non-confidential.

So what about the adults who are suffering from confidence games?

The Bible says two things that directly apply to this. First, “Bear one another’s burdens.” If we’re to bear these burdens we must know what they are. Second, “Speak the truth in love.” It’s not easy to get to the place where we can dispense with confidence games. We’ve all been hurt by people blabbing about our sufferings in ways that were anything but loving. We need to build up love within the body so that we can have trusting relationships where it becomes safe to speak the truth.

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1 Response to Confidence Games

  1. jason says:

    sometimes adults use the confidence game to build support for their “sides” – for example they think that if a minister hears their side of the story that that is one person to add to their camp

    other times adults use “confidentiality” as a type of confession

    and other times they tell a minister something in confidence and hope that the minister will do something with it – maybe something the informant cannot do because they are too passive

    the question should be – do we as ministers know when we are being used in this confidentiality game?

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