No matter your age, think before speaking

I have been what I call the "Keeper of Secrets" for most of my life. From the time I had my first slumber party at about age 12, I learned that most people want to share their innermost feelings, but just need someone to listen. Back in the day you could get the dirt on just about anyone with a simple "pinky-swear" not to tell or a "cross my heart."

There is a very thin line between sharing information and spreading gossip. Perhaps someone has trusted you with what they consider to be a secret, but at the same time they are asking what you think about it. No matter if you think they are right or wrong about something, you are put in a bit of an awkward situation. Maybe it is something YOU think they should be telling a family member or someone closer to them. Then again, there may be a reason that they have chosen to share a secret with you.

Every action does not require a reaction. The same can be said with information someone has chosen to share with you. More often than not, they just want you to listen and not necessarily offer an opinion or solution. Other times, they may indeed be seeking your advice. It can sometimes feel like an honor to be the one people go to with their secrets. Other times, it can feel like a burden. It takes a lot of practice to know when to comment, offer advice, or just plain keep your mouth shut!

If you are normally a calm person who does not overreact to things, you may indeed be a good person to go to for help, even though you may actually feel overwhelmed sometimes. It can be difficult knowing too much. It isn't like you can unknow stuff once you know it.

How do you know when you need to tell someone's secret? How will it affect others? Will they be angry that you did not tell them sooner? You want to always be loyal to those who trust in you, but there are those times when it is just too big to keep to yourself.

There is a big difference between having a conversation with someone and just spreading gossip. You can usually distinguish the difference in a very simple way. If the person you are speaking of were actually listening on another phone line, would you be in trouble? Is what you are saying a positive or negative tidbit?

Sometimes it can be really difficult to keep good news to yourself. Everyone likes to talk about things that make folks happy. Especially if you get to be the first to know. I know that can be hard for me, as well. I have to remind myself that the person who has the good news may be anxious to share it all on their own. They certainly should have the right to do so.

I had a few really great surprises for my 70th birthday. Several of my loved ones came in from out of state, and I had no idea they were coming. There were family members here who conspired with the guests and managed to make airport pick-ups and such without my knowledge. I was very excited and a bit shocked that they all managed to keep it from me. I had no idea they were such good secret keepers.

We have all heard the "if you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything at all." We also know that it just isn't that simple. We are humans, and talking about one another is just something we do. It may be that someone drives you nuts talking about their new baby. It could be a neighbor who constantly talks about someone who you have never even met. We talk about not only ourselves, but friends and family. It’ just a fact of life.

So how do you know when it is OK to share information about those close to you? Before you speak you need to ask yourself, is this hurtful to anyone? Will this make someone happy? Is this something I need to share? Is what I am going to say the truth or just what I am assuming to be the facts?

As we get older, you would think we would know automatically what to say and when to say it. Not so!

Our speaking filter actually gets worse as we get older. It is not unusual to blurt something out that is totally inappropriate, and then immediately wonder, ‘”what the heck was I thinking?” I am not sure if that is because we don't think things through as well as we used to, or maybe we just don't give a rat's behind what comes out of our mouths anymore.

Whatever the cause may be, we find ourselves too often being thrown under the bus for stating something another person has shared with us.

As Judge Judy would say, "God gave you two ears for listening, and one mouth for talking. There is a reason for that."