Lesson of the Week

A Good Confidante: I know when to be quiet

The Oprah life class tour was about to be broadcast from the Peabody stage in St. Louis, Missouri.  Although the fans were waiting and straining to know what was going on, on stage, Oprah’s producers weren’t wearing microphones and weren’t letting out any secrets.  When should moments on your mission be kept quiet?

There was an awesome woman in town.  She was hard working, intelligent, honest, but she was in trouble.  Her husband was abusive.  Phone answering machines had just been invented.  Unwittingly, the woman’s counselor left her client a home phone message explaining where the woman could get a divorce.  First the husband came home and listened to the counselor’s message.  Then the wife came home.  The story does not go well.  The husband beat and killed this wonderful woman.  Her community was heart broken. There was a breech in confidentiality.  Where there should have been quiet, there was speech.  The secret was out in a phone message.

No matter what the technology, email, Internet social media sites, cell phone tweets, or vocal cords, your mission must include a boundary of quiet – a model of confidentiality.  Each act of communication including idle gossip must be monitored for its relative impact.  Think about your boundaries, including social media, and make rules or a model for being a good, quiet confidante – a person who can be trusted to use information for healing and not hurting others.

One model is that of HIPAA, a government protection called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.  HIPAA protects the privacy of an individual’s health records.  HIPAA was created to protect people such as the dear woman just mentioned.  HIPAA is a set of rules making it illegal and preventing anyone from getting your medical information – except you or those you have designated to receive your files.

There is a knock-knock joke about HIPAA.  The joke goes:  Knock-knock?  Who’s there?  HIPAA.  HIPAA Who?  And the reply is, “Sorry, I can’t tell you that, it is confidential.”  Yes, your information is not to be disclosed to anyone.

Think deeply about how, when, and why you communicate your thoughts.  Create a model or boundary of confidentiality using confidantes and your own ability to keep quiet at the right times.  Thomas Carlyle translated a German Poem Sartor Resartus.  One part reads, “Silence is golden.”  Perhaps you can take this to heart and see that there will be times when your greatest asset, the golden one, will be not communicating an idea.  One of the most important roles you will ever have on your mission is to be quiet.

Boundaries are like the gestation period of an unborn baby.  Sometimes there should be a sacred womb for your words so they can first mature and then be born into conversation.


Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

- Miquel Angel Ruiz, Mexican Author


Activity:  Best Words, Worst Words

Materials:  Paper and pen or pencil

Time:  Ten minutes for writing and ten minutes for discussing each person’s answers.


1.  Write down the best words you ever said.

2.  What made this the best words and how do you think your words impacted others?

3.  Write down a story about words you regretted saying and wish you could take them back.

4.  What mistake did you make and how did these words impact yourself and others?

5.  What would have done different if you could have taken back these words?

6.  What have you learned about being quiet?

7.  Discuss your answers with the group or with a friend or family member.



I am a good confidante, so I can .... We'd like to hear your story about being quiet. Write your story below.