Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Confidentiality

C – Careful not to gossip
O – Only for my ears, keep it to myself
N – Never give out information
F – Friendship’s main component
I – If they didn’t tell anyone else, neither should I
D – Desirable character trait
E – Enriches bond between friends
N – No one’s personal details are for public discussion
T – Trusting someone to not share what you say
I – It is not a one-sided decision
A – Always keeps other’s best interest at heart
L – Loose lips can put you out of the loop
I – Intrinsic freshness seal to relationships
T – Trust can be lost or broken if not exercised
Y – Your friendship’s health and duration can be determined by your level of it

Sometimes in life we are put in positions where we have to exercise confidentiality. I have been in this position at least twice formally with volunteering. The first time was mentoring in a program for two years for girls whose mother-only parented homes were either going onto or coming off of welfare. The second time was while being a counselor at Agape Pregnancy Help Center for 3 years. I would hear stories of how home life was from young girls and young adults (and sometimes from clients older than myself) about the things they faced on a daily basis. Sometimes I was horrified at the lack of humanity and carelessness they described, other times I may have been saddened by the vacancy of love and support one would expect to get from home and from friends. (All this would of course make your mind race, but how you show it on your face is what makes the difference. You don’t want to react in a way as to make the other person think that they can’t share with you when that is the desired goal.)

Now that I no longer am involved in either of those ministries, I have had more time to look at my personal relationships with my friends….not saying that I haven’t done this before, but now for the lack of other counseling/mentoring venues, I’ve had more time to give them more attention. I’ve realized over the years that confidentiality between friends is something that is the unsaid super glue. Now there are things that my friends and I may talk about that is okay to be shared, but there are also some secrets that we will be taking to the grave. Everything may not be a secret, but it’s not something that’s up for public discussion either. When I look at the different levels of friendship I have with people, confidentiality is the marker of how close my friendship is with a person. I still keep in touch with friends from home and younger “sisters” of mine and one of the things that they know I do have is a good level of confidentiality. Knowing that you are the kind of person people can just talk to is a good thing; it means that you don’t spread their business.

Now there’s different bonds of confidentiality, there’s the confidentiality that I have with my husband, there’s the confidentiality that I have with my girls, there’s the confidentiality that I have with my parents, there’s the confidentiality I have with my coworkers…and so on. I can’t assume that any group shares confidentiality with each other and I shouldn’t cross contaminate. I can’t share things with my parents that I hold in confidence with my husband and I can’t share things with my husband that I share in confidence with my girls. There’s a difference in speaking up if a party is in danger and another if you’re bringing up something that was told to you with the intention of it being just for your ears.

I have been in the position before where I have told female friends of mine (they really were friends of mine) things that I’ve opened up about to just them only to later hear someone else ask me about it. Needless to say, those friendships crashed and burned, and not on accident. I gave chances for there to be some absolution to the issue but when it happened a few times, I had to just let them go. Usually it was cross contamination of my confidentiality with them being crossed with the confidentiality of another friend who they were close to but that I did not know myself. There is no quicker way to hurt a friendship than to break confidentiality. When people feel that their confidentiality with you is in jeopardy, they will make sure to keep you out of their business.

But there is also the matter of keeping information personal. If there is something that you need to vent or talk about but you can’t find the proper channel, you may have to keep a journal….or just tell God and pray over it. If you don’t know if you should talk about it or not, think about it….if it’s something that you really don’t want to ever hear about again, keep it. There is no law that says that everyone needs to know your business (including your friends) and the only time there may be concern is when accountability needs to be in place for you. Don’t feel like you have to tell your friends all your business to keep them as friends, you don’t have to…friends share information because they want to not because they feel forced or out of obligation.

We shouldn’t go fishing for information out of our friends…not saying this is less important when you’re younger, but I don’t think that teens have as big an issue with this because of where they are in life with trying to figure out themselves and what they’re going to do, they share information sometimes TOO easily…haha. But if we’re talking to our friends we should never ask them about something that they look/sound not too eager to share. When they get to the point when they just openly come to you, then you know they are ready to share and you’ll also be hearing the most relaxed honesty at that time. They may just be experiencing things that they want to keep personal and there’s nothing wrong with that, we have to be aware of the need to be courteous and caring.

You may wonder what keeping information personal has to do with confidentiality, it has a lot to do with it. Maintaining confidentiality is an outward decision; keeping personal information is an inward decision. They both take discernment and practice. I’m not writing this to say that I in any way have mastered these techniques but that I try to do better about them daily. I know I’ve breached confidentiality before and had to apologize to both parties (the one who it was about and the party I told) and while it may have been over something I thought to be small, it shouldn’t have been done. I also know that I’ve had to remove myself from certain people because of the amount of attention they want to give me trying to find out all the details of my life…

I’ll just leave you with the hope that something you read makes you think about and value the diverse relationships and confidentiality you have with others….remember, having confidentiality makes you a better friend/acquaintance and shows you can be trusted...