Confidentiality? by Dennis Heber (October 2007) PDF Print E-mail

“But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.”
-          James 5:12 (New Living Translation)

Have you ever had someone say to you, “I am going to tell you something but please to not tell anyone else.”  They may then say, “Keep it CONFIDENTIAL.”

The word CONFIDENTIAL is derived from the word CONFIDENCE. You trust someone not to pass on the information you entrusted them with. Confidentiality can be a powerful concept in:

•         Business 
•         Counseling 
•         Keeping Records 
•         Etc.

Webster defines CONFIDENTIAL as:
1  Marked by intimacy or willingness to confide.
2  Private, Secret confidential information.
3  Entrusted with confidences.
4  Containing information whose unauthorized disclosure could be prejudicial to
    the national interest.

However, CONFIDENTIALITY can also be a means by which people manipulate others, put people into fear and hide sinful behavior that needs exposure to be defeated.
1 Timothy 5:20 says, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”  Notice the phrase, “BEFORE ALL” in that verse.  It does not say to hide sin behind a cloak of secrecy and confidentiality.

I have witnessed Christian Leaders require oaths from their staff members that sinful behavior confessed or alluded to never be mentioned to anyone. Statements like:
“If this gets out…”  or, “We are never bringing these issues up again…”  or,  “We are moving on, and we are not talking about the past…”   Not talking about the past when it has been dealt with is a good idea. However, covering our sin through the disguise of CONFIDENTIALITY is not such a good idea.  You and I cannot conquer what we will not confront!

Some time I ago I was brought into a difficult situation regarding the handling of a Christian Leader.  Information was going to be given to me so that I could provide help and counsel.  The parties involved asked me to sign a letter of CONFIDENTIALITY.  At first, I agreed to sign the document, but after a time in prayer with the Lord I felt directed NOT to sign the document. The Lord spoke to me, James 5:12, “…never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no…”  You see, our WORD is our bond. If my WORD was not enough, there was no reason to sign a legal document.

Throughout the years people have approached me regarding contracts or agreements for staff members of churches. Pastors have insisted that their staff members sign “Official CONFIDENTIALITY Agreements” regarding church information. I always advise these staff members NOT to sign them. I have witnessed staff members being blamed for CONFIDENTIALITY issues which were leaked not by staff personnel, but family members of the Pastor or friends in the church.  Remember what James 5:12 says will happen if you simply say YES or NO, “…so that you will not sin and be (BLAMED) condemned. “

Is there a need for CONFIDENTIALITY? Of course there is. However, be very careful that the people asking you to keep something  CONFIDENTIAL,  do not have a hidden agenda for their request.  Make sure they are not setting you up to be the fall guy for their own sin and selfishness.  Make sure you are not being isolated or insolated from talking to others about the situation through manipulation disguised as CONFIDENTIALITY.  Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”


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