Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 20:19
"He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip"
It seems obvious that everyone would see the truth contained in this proverb, but we have all made this mistake. If someone tells us the secrets of someone else, they will tell our secrets to others. But we have all been tempted to reveal our heart to these people, only to have them publish what we said to a lot of other people.
I once told my daughter, who was going to a high school get-together with some of her friends: "Don't forget to guard you heart." "You will be tempted to share your feelings; be careful." It is the special environment of junior high and high school to encourage this kind of betrayal. Who do you like? Who do you hate? What really happened? What did you get on the test? What would you really like to do to your rival? All these and many others are probed and are the treasure for a slanderer. Once they have this information, they can tell everyone forever about what you really felt or really thought.
This is the Hebrew word rakil, which means slanderer. This word is used only six times in the Old Testament. The meaning is always a talebearer, a gossip, a slanderer. This is the person who gathers information of a personal nature and uses it to enhance their position, prestige, or power. Realize that this kind of person cannot keep confidences. They have to tell what they know. They are like a newspaper reporter who gathers facts only so that they can go in the paper. This person listens to your tales of woe only so that they can tell others about what you said. In every group of people there is at least one of these. They are a great source of shady information because they thrive on this kind of knowledge. Just remember that if a person is telling you the intimate secrets of someone else, they cannot keep a confidence and you should close your mouth anytime they are within earshot. They do not care if you get hurt when they tell what you told them. They are selfish and use personal information for their own advantage.
When a person is identified as a slanderer, do not tell them anything about your feelings or deepest thoughts unless you want those to be known.
This is the Hebrew word arab, which means to become surety or take on a pledge. The idea is more than just saying hello or being in the same place. Solomon is saying: Do not get into a partnership with these people; do not open your soul to these people as though they were your friend (which they will make you feel that they are). Their goal is to extract personal information so that they can use it to promote themselves. Do not believe them when they tell you that they will keep a confidence. They won't.
No matter how many times they pledge to you that they will tell no one what you are going to tell them, they cannot keep this pledge. They give into the temptation to gossip every time. When the impulse rises within them to use other people's personal information to enhance their standing, they cannot say no to that impulse. So when they get in a situation where your personal information will enhance their power, prestige, or position, they will use it even though they meant to keep a confidence.
Solomon is right. The only way to avoid being caught in their trap is to never tell them any personal information even if they ask for it. Who do you like? I'm sorry, I keep that personal information to myself.
How many people have been devastatingly hurt by trusting someone with personal information only to have that person break a confidence and tell others? This is how junior high works. This is how certain office buildings work. This is how certain churches work. It will continue to work this way until the slanderer no longer has information to share, or they are confronted with their sin. This is a poison, keeping groups in a turmoil so that there is no peace.
If you have been a gossip or talebearer or slanderer, realize that it is wrong. Admit to God that you have given in to a temptation when you tell the personal information of others to people who don't need to know. Repent. Change directions. You will end up with a lonely existence because of your inability to resist temptation in this area. You will have few, if any, long-time friends. You will always have to find new friends because the old ones will begin to hate and avoid you for what you have done. It is sin. It is selfishness. Stop.