Tag Archives: Stories for the Journey

Can You Keep a Secret?

Story of the Day for Wednesday October 19, 2011

Can You Keep A Secret?

                  A gossip exposes hidden things, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. 

                                                                      Proverbs 11:13

William White, in his book, Stories for the Journey, relates an old Jewish story that goes like something like this:

The Teacher took one of his students along to visit a wealthy man. They were seeking financial help for a man who had suffered a heart attack.

The rich man listened quietly as the Teacher explained the desperate need for help to aid the ailing man. “We are asking for a generous gift,” the Teacher concluded.

“Who is the sick man?” the wealthy man asked.

“I’m sorry, but we cannot reveal names. In this case, it would be awkward for the public to know that he needs charity.”

“If I am going to help this man,” the rich man replied, “I need to know his identity. I am willing to donate one thousand dollars – on the condition that you tell me who it is.  I promise his name will be kept in strict confidence.”

The Teacher sadly shook his head, “I will not reveal his name.”

“Then, let me double the offer. Two thousand dollars.”

The student looked at his Teacher in disbelief as he again refused.

Taking a deep breath, the rich man said, “Ten thousand dollars.”

The student could stand it no longer. “Teacher, ten thousand dollars will pay for all his hospital bill. He is an honorable man, and his secret will be safe between us.”

“A man’s honor is not open to negotiation,” the Teacher replied, as he made his way to the door.

As the Teacher turned to leave, the wealthy man blurted out, “Please, wait. May I speak with you alone for a moment.”

While the student stood outside, the rich man broke into tears and said, “Teacher, I have lost all my fortune. I cannot even make my next payment on the mortgage. I have wanted to ask for help, but I am ashamed to let everyone know of my failure.”

“Ah, now I understand,” the Teacher replied. “You were testing me to see if I could be trusted to keep your secret.” The Teacher assured the man that the matter would be kept in confidence, and that he would also raise money to help him as well.

After the two left, the student could stand it no longer. “I know he offered you a great amount of money so that you would tell him the name of the sick man. How much did he give you?”

The Teacher smiled and winked at the student, “Shame on you! You know these things are a secret.”


Why are we so eager to gossip?  Why do we find pleasure in spreading the secret faults of others?

I don’t know. But I do know this: there is One who covers all my shame.  And, whatever sick pleasure I may find in spreading gossip, he teaches me a far greater joy in keeping a confidence.

                                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)