Traits of a GB Relationship: Confidentiality

This series of posts about the unique Traits of a God Buddy relationship describes the characteristics that help men develop deeper friendships, which helps them become better men. The first trait of Finding Commonality leads to Developing Trust; the second trait. Paired with Trust is a characteristic that is absolutely necessary for a deep, meaningful GB relationship: Confidentiality.

It probably goes without stating but I will anyway….one of the most basic rules of friendships of any kind is you must never break a friend’s confidences.

Here are some definitions to consider:

Confidentiality [ kŏn′fĭ-dĕn′shē-ălĭ-tē]; Confidential [ kŏn′fĭ-dĕn′shē-ăl ]
Noun: the state of keeping or being kept secret or private.
Adjective: Spoken, written, acted on, etc., in strict privacy or secrecy; secret, a confidential remark Indicating confidence or intimacy; imparting private matters. Having another’s trust or confidence; entrusted with secrets or private affairs.

In my previous post about Developing Trust, I indicated that during the early stages of a maturing friendship is when you should let your new friend know you are allowing them inside your heart because you have come to trust them with the discussions between the two of you.

After you establish that initial level of trust though, you then go to the next and very important level by agreeing on complete confidentiality so that nothing discussed between the two of you is shared.

In his book, The Accountable Man: Pursuing Integrity Through Trust and Friendship, Tom Eisenman uses the word “Trustworthiness” to describe the absolute confidentiality needed for an accountable relationship to work.

Eisenman’s rule is that nothing shared inside the relationship get shared outside unless permission is given. He feels that even small things that may seem of no consequence, must be held in strict confidence. Once you demonstrate that you are not trustworthy, your friend will remain guarded and not begin to open up his life to you.

Now I must insert a qualifier at this point.

Strict Confidentiality, except…

There is only one reason to break confidentiality. If you believe the safety of your friend, his family, or anyone else is in jeopardy, YOU MUST GET HELP! Go to your pastor or even the police if there is any concern whatsoever about the threat of your friend harming themselves or any others.

Interestingly, a common synonym for confidentiality is discretion. This makes sense, in that it’s important to distinguish between information that should be kept private and information which should be shared if it is harmful. You must use discretion.

A Covenant of Confidentiality

For the most part, things discussed between God Buddies fall under a “covenant of confidentiality” that is implied but gets cemented once you both agree to keep things between the two of you.

This means nothing discussed ever gets discussed with your wife (if you are married) or anyone else, no matter how close they are to you. For the GB relationship to be effective, you need to both commit to this covenant of privacy to clear the way for more open and honest discussions. If you can’t keep your friends’ secrets, the relationship will quickly diminish.

Trust is earned, and it’s essential that you also provide the trust your friend needs, as well as the respect your friend deserves.

What if The Covenant is Broken?

Trust is easily broken

If you find out that your friend has broken your covenant, you need to take control of where and how the friendship goes forward. Control your own communication, behavior, and expectations of that relationship. Edit how much and what you share. Limit the time you spend together. Adjust your expectations. Let him know that what he did was not okay. Be gentle but firm and be especially clear about how you want the friendship to play out—if it can even continue, depending on the level of trust that was broken.

Learning to trust again will be tough.

However, God Buddy friendships are rarely devoid of a few obstacles and struggles along the way. When the relationship is tested, it can grow stronger or it will wither and die. You must weigh the cost of losing the relationship against the benefit of re-establishing trust. The best path might be to take the high road and move on. Or you should begin again with clear expectations and tighter boundaries.

In either case, don’t follow a friend’s example and spill his secrets, even if you drop the person from your inner circle.

Biblical Support

The Bible actually has a lot to say about a friend coming to another in confidence and disclosing a personal or moral issue.  

Confess to One Another

As Christians, we’re instructed to confess to one another but confidentiality must be expected.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:16 New International Version (NIV)

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Matthew 6:14 New International Version (NIV)

About Gossip

Avoid people who are busy-bodies because gossip breaks up friendships. The word often translated as gossip is the Greek word for a whisperer, a secret slanderer, or a detractor. Be careful who and what you share with someone known to gossip.

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 16:28 New International Version (NIV)

Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to.

1 Timothy 5:13 New International Version (NIV)

Using Discretion

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom and encourages “discretion” four times in the first five chapters (Proverbs 1:42:13:215:2).

Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you,

Proverbs 2:11

Trust is Critical for GBs

A portion of the physician’s Hippocratic Oath says, “And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession . . . if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets.”

God Buddies also treat what is told to each other as “holy secrets”.

To move your maturing relationship to the next level, men need to also show some Vulnerability, which is the topic for the next post.

Have you ever had to recover from broken trust? If so, what suggestions can you provide?

Feel free to comment below.


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