The term “confidant” is often used to describe a person who has been trusted with sensitive or private personal information. Everyone needs a confidant, but choosing a trustworthy person to share your secrets with can be a tricky task. Unfortunately, the ability to keep a secret is simply not a trait that everyone possesses. If you feel the need to divulge the details of your personal life, it’s a good idea to take the time to consider if your secret will be safe.
For some people, the ability to keep a secret is an absolutely vital part of their professional integrity. Doctors must work with private medical information on a daily basis. Lawyers are often privy to secrets as well. By the very nature of their professions, priests and psychiatrists must be trustworthy confidants. If you share your secret with someone who deals with sensitive information as a part of his or occupation, you can be reasonably assured of your privacy.
The average person, however, may be much less likely to act as a trustworthy confidant. Before you share a secret with a friend, ask yourself if he or she has been responsible in the past. If your friend is best described as reckless and impulsive, think twice before sharing your secret. A friend who regularly gossips about a mutual acquaintance is also a poor choice to share your secrets with. The best confidant is a friend who is both sensitive and emphatic.
When you are asked to keep a secret as a confidant, take your promise seriously. If you’re tempted to share the secret with someone else, ask yourself how you would feel if your friend divulged your personal information. Trust and accountability are the cornerstones of a successful friendship. If you fail to keep a friend’s secret, however, it’s best to confess your mistake and apologize accordingly. Denying any wrongdoing is a surefire way to permanently destroy a friendship.
Of course, there are some secrets no confidant should keep. In certain situations, a moral obligation to do the right thing surpasses the importance of keeping a secret. A teen who confesses to her best friend that she’s worried she may have a drug or alcohol problem is crying out for help. Similarly, anyone who tells you they are thinking of suicide doesn’t really need you to keep their secret. Breaking a confidence is a small price to pay when you’re potentially saving someone’s life.