The scene gets repeated hundreds of thousands of times each day. Two people meet over lunch, coffee, or some other relaxed venue to catch up with each other on what has been happening in each of their lives. If the relationship is one that has stood the test of time and trustworthiness, conversations flow easily from one topic to another, from deeply personal concerns or beliefs to the latest fads or headlines. Each feels pretty safe as a result of previous conversations and confidences that were not betrayed.
It would be wonderful if that were common for our times with one another; but more often than any of us would like to admit or recall, we discover the person we entrusted found it too tempting to keep our conversation only between the two of us. Most of the time we learn about the breach. If the tidbit shared was relatively inconsequential, we are fortunate. We DO make a mental note, however, and find ourselves reflecting on what else we might have shared that could be more significant.
Within the Christian community, information can often be repeated or shared under the guise of a prayer request. Certainly there are times when the motives are pure. We know someone is facing a cancer diagnosis and we want anyone and everyone to be praying and we skip the request to not share with anyone else.
Early in our walk with Christ when we look at fellow believers as mature and trustworthy without question, we can be naïve and openly share information with those who may not be safe for us. For some who hear, they are tempted to share or use our information to in some way make them feel more important or special for being “in the know” and passing it along to others.
Others of us tend to be very closed to share much of anything about ourselves. The result is usually that we have very few relationships and despite our fears about sharing, we may feel lonely and unfulfilled by the relationships that we do have.
What is the answer?
We need to grow in our discernment, learning from our observations of the person we are sharing with and also from our past experiences. That can also mean getting beyond our adolescent desires to have one “best friend” we can share everything with. Each of us is a complex, unique creation, and no other person can hear, understand, or relate to every aspect of who we are. That will not usually be the case except with “the” best friend we can have who will never betray us and understands every aspect of us more than we do.
The snare the enemy sets for us is to let our feelings at the moment dictate what, how much, and to whom we share. Even before hearing there is any betrayal, in those cases we can often regret how much we let roll out of our mouths. That nudge to “spill our guts” is even stronger when we have not first done so in our time alone with the Lord. We all can often benefit from talking through something or processing something with another person, but it is key to remember to not neglect sharing it first with the One who hears us best and loves us most.
If we fail to grow in discernment, we fall into another enemy snare and close ourselves off. Liz Curtis Higgs notes, “Discernment is needed. But for most of us, the greater danger is being close minded instead of open hearted, staying home rather than venturing forth, playing it safe instead of taking a risk.”
ALL relationships involve some level of risk, but God designed us as relational beings. Perhaps the key is once again to learn to hear His voice, trust His leading, and know He will be there even when we mess up.