Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

My friend told me something in secret. I only told one other person, but now it seems everybody knows. What can I do to make things right?

New Era

Secrets are interesting. That’s what makes them so irresistible. When you know something you think will be of great interest, it seems like it takes up a big part of your brain until you can talk about it. In fact, that is the very reason your friend felt it necessary to tell someone. And your friend picked you because you were trusted to keep the secret.

Your friend was, perhaps, looking for some advice and sympathy. It is hard to go through difficult situations alone. And that’s one of the great things about having close friends. They can be there for you when you’re having a hard time.

In this case, your friend told you something and asked that you not tell anyone else. Your friend trusted you. And it was very wrong to betray that trust by telling someone else. Now that the secret is out, you simply cannot pretend nothing happened. You must face your friend and admit your fault. It is the only way to start repairing the problem between you. You have to be completely honest, and don’t try to make excuses. Ask your friend to forgive you. You can explain that you have learned a terribly hard lesson and that you hope eventually to win the trust of your friend again. Be understanding if your friend is angry with you. You must be the one to speak quietly and kindly and to try to be an even better friend. Friendships are worth working for.

If there is any way to make up for what you did, do it. You may need to apologize to the person you told the secret to. After all, it really was you who made the first mistake and put your second friend in an awkward situation.

You should let your friends know upfront, however, that you cannot bind yourself to keeping a secret that involves something illegal, unsafe, or destructive. Your first commitment is to doing what you have been taught is right. When your friends admit to doing something illegal, unsafe, or destructive, you should try to convince them to tell their parents or a school counselor or church leader. If they refuse you may have to tell someone else like your parents or your bishop. In a way, people who tell you about the wrong things they have done are crying for help. You on your own cannot help them solve their problems. Doing nothing except listening may not be enough. You cannot help them by participating in their wrong choices with them. If they are not strong enough to tell anyone else about their problems, then you can help by getting adults with greater resources involved. A true friend considers what is best for the other person. As you grow older, knowing that you did everything possible for the good of your friend will help you to live with your choice.

Readers

I know when someone tells me something in secret, I’m making a bond of trust not to tell anyone else. If I broke that bond, the only way I could gain back their trust would be to pray and ask for forgiveness. It takes time to gain back trust, but if you remain honest, in time your friend will trust you again.

Bethany Agee, 15 Salem, Oregon

Your friends need to be able to trust you. Say you’re sorry to your friend. Also, set it right as soon as possible.

Jill Crockett, 14 Calgary, Alberta, Canada

The first thing you should do is tell the person you were the one that told their secret. Then sincerely ask for forgiveness. The hard part will be rebuilding the trust between you. You need to be a better friend to that person, and you could ask Heavenly Father for ideas on how you can become a better friend.

Clay Hunter, 15 Cedar City, Utah

First, you have to pray for help and forgiveness. Tell your friend that you are sorry. Stick by her and comfort her.

Danielle Crowther, 13 Las Vegas, Nevada

The best thing to do is come clean. We are all children of our Heavenly Father. We should treat each other as such. By keeping the words of Jesus Christ in mind, it will make it easier to refrain from gossip.

Christina Hardman, 16 Lake Elsinore, California

Ask for forgiveness from the Lord and from your friend for revealing such a secret. Ask for the Spirit of the Lord to help you become more dependable. Avoid as much as you can the spreading of any rumor, secret, or gossip. Pray to the Lord to fill your friend’s heart with a forgiving spirit as you approach him to make amends.

Kennedy Ediworo, 18 Warri Branch, Nigeria

The first thing I would do is talk to the friend that told me the secret. She may not trust you with her secrets, but you might be friends again. If you put a feather on every porch in town and then went back to retrieve all of them, it would be impossible. This is the same kind of thing. It’s impossible to get back that secret, so now just be her best friend.

Kristin Lowell, 16 Mesa, Arizona

You may never get things exactly as they were before. When you betray someone’s confidence, it is hard for the person to ever trust you again. The most important thing to do is go to your friend and admit that you shared her secret with someone else. You need to apologize and promise never to do it again. Then live up to your promise. Be a good friend and let her know that you truly care.

Natalie Freestone, 17 Mesa, Arizona

[photo] Photography by John Luke; posed by models

[illustration] When a friend asks you to keep a secret, he is placing his trust in you. Being known as a trustworthy person means that you place great importance on keeping your word.

In ancient times, King Solomon, known for his wisdom, advised in Proverbs 11:13 to avoid being a talebearer and to instead be a faithful friend. “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” [Prov. 11:13] (Painting Solomon Prays at the Temple Dedication by Robert T. Barrett.)