“If you tell Lisa something, are you sure that she will not tell others?” the pastor asked his wife. They were dealing with a tricky church situation that could turn into a huge mess. Gossip needed to be minimized so that the situation could be dealt with privately. “Oh yes, Lisa is a vault.” This pastor’s wife trusted me with her secrets. I was her friend. She knew that I would pray for her and not gossip about her.
I can’t imagine what it is like to be a pastor’s wife. Your husband has a job in full-time ministry and is putting in more than a 40 hour workweek. Yet somehow the wife must also meet the many expectations of the church. She should lead the ladies ministry, graciously entertain church members at home, never show anger or weakness, and serve tirelessly. I’ve heard that is a lonely position, as the wife has few trusted friends in whom to confide when she is struggling.
By God’s grace, I have become a trusted friend to some pastor’s wives in our church. I know when others have hurt them deeply. I know when they are being slandered by church members. I know when they feel like a failure as a pastor’s wife. What I do with this confidential information is key.
I’m a vault.
A vault is defined as room or compartment for the safekeeping of valuables. What my friends tell me is valuable information, part of their hearts that I must safeguard in order to protect them. I handle this information carefully, just like how the gold at Fort Knox is painstakingly protected and guarded.
There are three principles I personally follow in how to faithfully handle what my friends tell me. They are principles that we should all use in order to be faithful and confidential friends.
1) If you are married, you can share information with your husband. I don’t share everything with my husband but since I am one with him, I allow myself to talk to him if I need to. He also keeps that information confidential.
2) I follow the principle of “Information can go up, but not out.” I never tell my other friends or church members what my friends tell me tell me. I never uncover their hearts or their struggles.
Occasionally, though, I will find that a friend shares a struggle with me and I don’t know to counsel or encourage them. These are often complicated issues like abuse or divorce or suicidal thoughts. If I need help, I will talk to my mentor or my pastor about how I can help my friends. This is my only exception to my confidentiality rules.
3) I pray and encourage. I pray for these friends who are struggling and I follow up with them. I ask questions of the heart, not just “How are you?” but “How is your heart?” This gives them an open door to unburden their hearts to me if needed.
What I have found is that as I have become a trusted friend to women, they find that they are safe with me.
They share confidential struggles with me. In turn, I have found that I feel comfortable sharing my own struggles and prayer requests with them. I trust them as well, and they have become close friends with me.
You may follow different rules in how you handle confidential information, but the most important thing is to protect and not expose your friend. You want to be faithful to them and their trust in you.
What about you? Are you a vault, or are you careless with what your friends share with you? I encourage you to be a trusted friend by closely guarding what your friends entrust to you: the details of their lives.