Secretiveness may be defined as the quality of heart and mind by which we conceal that which is injurious, if made known, and by which we reveal only that which, if known, conduces to successful accomplishment of the purpose at hand. Thus it acts as a restraint on the injurious, and as an encouragement to the advantageous.
The Elements of Secretiveness
Proper secretiveness has especially two parts: (1) restraint and (2) tactfulness:
(1.) The restraint part of secretiveness operates to prevent the revealing of a matter that we are required to hide. Secretiveness places a restraint on: (1) the expression our feelings, so as not to allow them to betray out thoughts; (2) our words, which means that we would need to bridle our tongues; and (3) our movements, for often we reveal our thoughts by a nod of the head, a shrug of the shoulders, etc.
(2.) The tactfulness part of secretiveness conceals the inapplicable feelings, expressions, words and movements, and reveals the applicable feelings, expressions, words and movements to gain the results that one is seeking. Jesus taught His disciples to practice it when He told them, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matthew 10: 16).
The Lack of Secretiveness
The lack of secretiveness is shown in those who fail to conceal what should be concealed, and who reveal things that should not be revealed. They often tell disparaging things about themselves and others by engaging in gossip, talebearing, slander, evil surmises and the betraying of others’ confidences and interests.
The Abuse of Secretiveness
Overdone secretiveness produces disgraces which the Bible condemns, such as: (1) cunning; (2) deceitfulness; (3) double-dealing; (4) double-crossing; (5) lying; and (6) hypocrisy, the worst form of secretiveness’ abuse. The severest denunciation ever spoken was when Jesus denounced the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. The most widely known hypocrite is Judas Iscariot, who betrayed his Master with a kiss.
The Proper Use of Secretiveness
The proper use of secretiveness is in harmony with justice. It is not to be used wrongly to hide things that should be known, even if it brings us some injury; and it should not reveal things bringing us advantage, if those things should be concealed. For example, if we know of a thing that if hidden would result in injury to an innocent person or persons, no matter how advantageous to ourselves or to others its concealment would be, we are to warn the innocent ones of the danger. For instance, if we knew that a thief was planning to steal from his neighbor, it would be our duty, if unable to dissuade the wrong-doer, not to conceal, but to reveal the plot to the intended victim, in order to shield him from harm, regardless of the disadvantage that the evil-doer or we may suffer.
Again, we should not reveal that which would prove to be a disadvantage to an innocent person, no matter how much advantage may come to us by the revelation. Thus, Judas should not have revealed Jesus to His enemies, though it brought him thirty pieces of silver, and though he probably reasoned that Jesus’ miraculous powers would be used to prevent injury to Himself and would hasten His establishing the Kingdom.
We are to use secretiveness in our and in others’ interests. Hence one has a right, in harmony with others’ rights, to exercise secretiveness in one’s own interests; but to use it for our interests alone would make us too selfish. Therefore, one should use it also to hide what, if known about his neighbor, would harm him, and to reveal what, if made known about his neighbor, would benefit him.
Sacrificial Uses for the Consecrated
But secretiveness has sacrificial uses for the consecrated, who for the benefit of their brethren will suppress its use toward oneself, as the interests of the brethren require, to the Lord’s glory. For example, in times of great persecution brethren refused to betray their brethren to the persecuting authorities, even at the endurance of torture, or of death itself. They also refused to betray the whereabouts of Bibles and church treasuries stored up for the poor, again, sometimes costing them torture, and sometimes even their lives.