Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’m so #+^^#}=ing angry I could scream! Back-story: I serve on a
very high level confidential committee on my shul. On it is an attorney
with whom I worked in the past (she represented my company). She is
also representing the local university in negotiations with the faculty
union, sitting across (where across means very adversarial) from a
friend of mine who is the union president. After a particularly
contentious meeting of my committee I felt I understood my friend’s
situation a whole lot better. When I ran into her at a coffee shop the
next day, I first swore her to completely confidentiality. Then I
described the mutual nemesis as “reflexively confrontational, like one
of those boxing nun puppets.” That is all I said!! Today– one day
later!!– I got a call from my committee chair, who had heard from a
third party what my friend had said. She accused me of breaking
committee confidentiality. Of course I had to admit what I had said,
but explained that it had nothing to do with the committee business,
rather the personality of the member whom my friend and I knew in
common. She was annoyed but did not ask me to step off the
committee. I am furious with my friend for breaking my confidence,
and with myself for gossiping. What should I say to my friend?


Dear Slammed:

You are right to be angry with your friend. When someone is told
something in confidence, and agrees to that stipulation, they are not
supposed to repeat what they have been told. But you are even more
right to be angry with yourself. Because virtually no one, repeat no
one, as in nobody, no human, can really keep a secret for very long,
especially if the secret validates a strong personal bias of their own.
We may be able to keep our own secrets if they are important enough
to our well-being, at least for a while. But someone else’s secret,
which if divulged will not harm us, is like a warm batch of cookies
sitting on the counter: wafting the scent of fair game to all and near.



Re talking to her, I suggest calming down first. You can wait until you
see her again, and convey your dissatisfaction with cold distancing. Or
you can call her and give her a piece of your mind. But if she is as loud
and volatile as your story suggests, she’s apt to blow whatever you
say out of proportion as well. I’d counsel restraint. Tell her you are
disappointed, that she should absolutely stop repeating what you said
in confidence, and then avoid telling her anything of consequence
again. Then follow the commandment not to gossip. It hurts everyone.