So a friend calls you up and says, “Hey, I really need to talk. Can you spare me an hour?” You get together and they spill out a rather lengthy tale of a less than honorable thing they did last week.” What do you do? Where do you go for counseling to help the person you’re supposed to be counseling?
One thing you don’t do is call up another friend and blab about the details.
Sometimes as an elder in my church, I am given the privilege of counseling another member. This is always a humbling task because although I am willing, I don’t feel especially gifted in this area. I am also very cautious ……….. I distinctly recall an episode where something I said in confidence made its way to the ears of my pastor for which I later received a harsh rebuke. I would just as soon not repeat that little incident.
I have learned to keep the door shut, both the physical door and my mental door. What I mean is, I don’t talk about the issues with anyone outside that room. If someone puts their confidence in me, then I respect their privacy. I also carefully guard what words I use so that I’m not embarrassed at a later date because of something I shouldn’t have said.
Here are a few verses that may be helpful:
Proverbs 11:13 ESV – Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Matthew 12:36-37 ESV – I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Ephesians 4:29 ESV – Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Proverbs 21:23 ESV – Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
One of the little rhymes my kids used to repeat was, “Secrets, secrets are no fun! Secrets are for everyone!”
That’s a bad piece of advice. If someone shares a secret with you, you owe it to them to keep the matter quiet. Practice some self-control and keep it to yourself. Don’t even hint that you know a secret because someone will try to weasel it out of you. Self-control, self-control ……….
As for having a private meeting, here is another strong word of warning. If the person asking for counsel happens to be of the opposite sex, never meet with them alone. Always ask a respected third party to be in the room with you. They may not want a third person involved, but this safeguards you from multiple temptations and any hint at wrongdoing on your part. With a third person you trust, you have a reliable witness who can vouch for your character.
Here’s to the beautiful sound of silence. Mugs up!!