Confidentiality as an Accountability Partner
Some have jokingly said that keeping a secret is telling only one person at a time. But secrets ought to be kept secret unless someone else needs to know (more about this below). Confidentiality is keeping private information appropriately secret.
As an accountability partner of someone other than your spouse, you will learn personal and sometimes sensitive information about your partner. You should generally keep this between you and your partner. Your partner is sharing this information with you to help them change, grow, and fulfill a goal that they have set. So, as an accountability partner, consider yourself as a steward, protector, and supporter of your partner’s personal well-being.
Confidentiality assumes a basic level of trust in the relationship and a certain measure of self-control to restrict your speech. Your friend believes that you will not share their private information indiscriminately.
Ways Confidentiality Can Fail
Sadly, there are many ways in which confidentiality can fail, resulting in feelings of betrayal. These breaches of trust can destroy relationships and ruin lives.
What are some of these failures?
- Gossip or talebearing—sharing private information with people who are not part of the problem or the solution.
- Embellishing a known truth with other details in order to lead others to believe the worst about your partner.
- Communicating half-truths, evading the truth, and allowing or causing others to believe a lie about your partner.
These disasters should clearly be avoided.
What to Know Before Receiving Secret Information
As an accountability partner, you do not need to know everything about your partner. There are certain things that will remain private to them.
Before receiving confidential information from your partner, ask these kinds of questions:
- Do I need to know this information?
- How is it necessary for me to know in order to help my partner?
- Is this information their news to share? (That is, is it about someone else?)
- Why is this person sharing this information? What do they hope to gain?
- Will receiving this information place me in the middle of a conflict that I have no reasonable way of addressing?
- Will your partner agree to trust your judgment if and when this information needs to be shared with others?
When to Share Confidential Information
While sensitive information should normally be kept private, there are some limits to confidentiality. Essentially this comes down to situations in which your partner is in danger or others might be in danger. Perhaps your partner is involved with something illegal, immoral, or otherwise hurtful to others.
Building up and not tearing down others should be your goal.
When necessary, you should tell others who are either part of the problem or could be part of the solution. Before you tell anyone, you should encourage your partner to confess their choices and actions to those who have been hurt.
You will want to carefully consider if someone else needs to know about these things. Your motivation should be based on love, seeking the best interests of all people involved, especially your partner. Perhaps certain people need to know these things in order to be protected from further harm. Or maybe your partner can receive more care and support from a wider circle. Building up and not tearing down others should be your goal.
Consider these questions to help you decide if and how you should disclose confidential information:
- Do I have my partner’s best interests in mind?
- Will my partner understand that I needed to share this information?
- Will this disclosure unnecessarily diminish other people’s perception of my partner?
- What might I gain personally by sharing this information?
- By sharing appropriate information could I possible avert disaster?
- Am I about to share this information with someone who has proven their trustworthiness in the past?
- How much information should I share?
Confidentiality allows appropriate transparency and vulnerability while also protecting privacy. Such mutual respect and loyalty can build trust and deepen the relationship between two people.
Take care to discern when private information should be kept private and when it should be told to others. Remember Proverbs 10:19, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”