Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

The Importance Of Giving And Keeping Confidences

November 23, 1998

Relationships are built on trust and confidences. The human spirit needs a release for the cry of the heart, pure acceptance, safety and knowledge that what was said will go no further. We need confidential relationships - at least one. A hidden blessing of a tragedy is that, perhaps for the first time, a person learns to turn to a confidant to bear his or her soul.

"If we are truly prudent we shall cherish those noblest and happiest of our tendencies - to love and confide." - Bulwar

The anxious dance of courtship and friendship is a gauging of how much to reveal and when to reveal it. To talk easily with one another is the beginning of friendship.

In marriage, family life, and best friendships, we expect that our character, struggles and secrets will be respected and protected. The hurt of being betrayed by one close to you and who truly knows you, destroys faith in human nature and puts up walls that are not easily broken down.

Saying too little. Love, trust and sharing confidences go hand in hand. It is a risk we take; a dangerous path to follow. Yet without venturing on that path, we deprive ourselves of love, wisdom and total acceptance by another human being.

"To confide, even though to be betrayed, is much better than to learn only to conceal. In the one case your neighbor wrongs you; but in the other you are perpetually doing injustice to yourself." - Simms

People can be too safe, too cautious and deny themselves the love and support that is available to them if they would only open their mouths. If people are to err, it should be in trusting too much rather than too little. Honesty and truth, even if painful, opens the door of the heart. A spouse, a best friend, or a caregiver is honored by the trust that is placed in them.

Problems grow in relationships when communication is poor. There is too little understanding of one another. Each person wants to trust and love but their differences keep them apart.

Too many people grow wary and frustrated when they are not listened to and understood. Too many people are too indifferent or self-absorbed to try to understand another. Sometimes the process of trying to understand one another is too painful because of poor communication skills.

Saying too much. Some people confide too easily, some not enough. Sadly, those who are indiscriminate with their own confidences will likely be indiscriminate with yours.

"Trust him with little, who, without proofs, trusts you with everything, or when he has proved you, with nothing." - Lavater

Sometimes people are so anxious in relationships that they trust too soon. The other party doesn't open up their heart enough and the relationship is one-sided. The confider discovers that he or she revealed their heart to someone who wasn't ready to be faithful friend. If not enough is being given back, if trust doesn't flow both ways, then holding back is a wise course of action.

"Let us have a care not to disclose our hearts to those who shut up theirs against us." - Beaumont

Pouring out emotions or thinking without knowing the heart of the recipient is an invitation to be hurt. Special relationships take commitment. Too much disclosure too soon can frighten away someone who isn't prepared to share at that level or make commitments.

Why do people need to keep their mouths shut? It is because they make mistakes, their judgments are premature and faulty, and their life is a work in progress. Outside of trusted confidants, others don't need to hear a blow-by-blow account of struggles, missteps and growth.

The negative impressions others get through that kind of detail may linger long after changes have been made. It pays to be reserved and protective of your own reputation. Likewise negative comments about someone you care about may shape an opinion in others that won't change as quickly as your own.

"That is a choice friend who conceals our faults from the view of others and reveals them to our own."  - Secker

The habit of telling too much about oneself or others may cause trouble in relationships. Some things need to be kept private or talked about only in trusted, confidential relationships. If not, what you say may get back to the person you are talking about. It will hurt them and make them less trusting of you. The pain of your remark, unknown to you, may add misery and hurt that lasts and lasts.

Well-Meaning People.

Well meaning people heap guilt

As motives and judgments are questioned,

Sending you back in your mind

Over paths walked numerous times

Always leading to the same conclusion

With added pain. - Emily McLaws

"I hold it a fact, that if all persons knew what each other said of each other, there would not be four friends in the world." -Pascal

Thank goodness not everyone gossips. We have friends because we have learned to hold our tongues.