I Can’t Keep my Mouth Shut!

Dear Gabby,

The other day, a friend of mine told me she wanted to share a secret with me and she said it was of only minor concern to me, but it had a strong impact on another friend. I immediately responded: “Don’t! Don’t do it! I don’t want to know!” I did this, not because I didn’t want to know (I was actually very curious). Rather I did it because every time somebody shares a secret with me, my slippery mind and tongue betray me at the first chance they get. I don’t spill secrets voluntarily, or even with bad intentions. Most of the time, they just slip out. So, since realizing this, I stop my friends before they share something secret with me. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, though. On the one hand, my friends might be disappointed to know they can’t trust me enough to share their burdens with me, and our friendship may suffer. What kind of friend can’t keep a secret? And this approach also implies a lack of self-control on my part. On the other hand, I feel like it is a more honest approach to things. Maybe my friends will appreciate my sincerity. Should I continue dodging secrets, or should I take work harder on keeping secrets at the risk of having one slip out every now and then?

– Blabber Mouth in Bermuda

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and disclipine.

Proverbs 1:7

Okay Blabber Mouth, (and Gabby means that in the nicest possible way!) so ya got loose lips? This shouldn’t be too much of a problem most of the time – unless you’re guardian of KFC’s secret recipe or you work for the CIA. Then you would seriously need to rethink your career choice. Mostly, Gabby thinks it is perfectly acceptable and appropriate to be proactive about avoiding secrets if you know you can’t handle them. It takes real wisdom to know our faults and weaknesses and it takes discipline to resist scintillating chit chat when it’s offered up so freely.

On the other hand, Gabby agrees that applying a one-size-fits-all approach to every sensitive situation could keep you from becoming a better person. There is a difference between someone seeking counsel and someone seeking to gossip. If you stop your friends at “hello,” how are you going to be able to tell them apart? A friend truly seeking to share a burden with you would almost certainly have to define the crisis or dilemma with facts and details. And Gabby would have to admit that to decline giving a friend a sympathetic ear or objective counsel in a true time of need would be lame. It might even be considered undisciplined or unwise.

But should names start popping into the story, in specific detail, and your friends confessional begin to turn ugly, what you’re dealing with is gossip. That is a different creature, a maybe the one you really have the problem with. Gossip is a mean little stink bug that is hard to kill – a slick little bugger that can trip you up something bad. In fact, the worst thing about this stink bug is that you almost have to pass it on to someone else. Could it be that these secrets you’ve been blabbing are of this species? Don’t forget that those little stink bugs can look a lot like genuine concern when someone else is holding them.

Gabby’s advice for telling the difference between a secret you really need to bear and a stink bug you won’t be able bear is to listen carefully. If you know you are blabbin’ it up with someone who has passed you a stink bug before, best to stop that conversation at the exact point you did with your friend. And don’t feel bad about it. But, if you are talking with someone who is looking for comfort or counsel, you need to hear her out and exert all the discipline your loose lips can handle. After all, Gabby’s pretty sure you can keep mum about some things – like maybe your weight? Or a certain hygiene ritual?  Bet that wouldn’t just come popping out when you least expect it, would it? Gabby believes that we don’t repeat anything we truly don’t want to. That might be a horse pill to swallow, so it’s perfectly OK if it takes you a few heart-to-heart talks with yourself to come to that conclusion on your own.

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