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February 19, 1997

Your Secrets (Not) Safe with Me

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A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much. PROVERBS 20:19
There’s nothing wrong with developing friendships with the people with whom we work. Spending eight, nine, or more hours a day with someone builds camaraderie and reveals common interests, and friendship is a natural outcome.
According to this verse, however, we shouldn’t get too comfortable around people who talk too much, regardless of how much we have in common with them. We might feel sure that a coworker’s chatter—whether verbal or, in this electronic age, through the company e-mail system—is harmless. But we never know when something we share is going to get passed on to someone else. So unless we want the entire company to know that we dislike our new boss, that we’re hoping for promotions, or that we’re having problems with our children, we’d best keep our mouths shut when we’re around that person.
And then there are those coworkers who are always ready and willing to share information about other people. Be doubly careful around them. If they’re telling you stories about others, there’s a good chance that they’re telling other people stories about you. So don’t listen to their gossip, and don’t tell them anything confidential.
Better yet, stay away from them. These people—the King James Version calls them “talebearers”—have a way of working secrets out of people. They prod and pry and flatter and tease, and before you know it, you’ve spilled an entire story that you had no intention of even bringing up. And once that information is elicited, there’s no telling what form it will take—or how it will hurt you—when it’s passed on to the next person.
Are your secrets safe? More important, are the secrets that have been entrusted to you safe? Make sure they stay that way, lest you earn the title of “talebearer.”

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