Jul 23, 2008

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3rd Tenet of the Code – Respect Confidentiality


                                 3rd Tenet – Respect Confidentiality



The wood that best represents this tenet is Eucalyptus – The eucalyptus tree is usually found growing in groups.  Its outer bark is shed easily, but gives nothing away.  Its inner bark is strong and not easily stripped away.  The strong aroma that is the true gift of this tree is safely encased within the inner bark.

 The symbol for this tenet is the Armadillo – In some Native American traditions, the armadillo is a symbol of boundaries.  To protect itself, the armadillo will roll itself into a ball protected by its outer shell.


Confidential – indicating confidence or intimacy.

Respect – to hold in esteem or honor.

            One of the most misunderstood concepts I have come across in MDI is the notion of respecting confidentiality.  We go to great lengths in our men’s circles to get men to appreciate that  this tenet does not say enforce confidentiality but rather respect it.  So what does tht mean?    The tenet does not ask that we keep secrets or remain secretive.  At the start of every meeting we tell men “you are encouraged to take the lessons learned here and to share them with the men and women in your life”.  We are not looking to be secretive but to allow men to be confident that what occurs will not become the fodder for idle gossip.  Simply, this tenet asks that men respect the intimacy created amongst men who come together for a common purpose.  Intimate circles allow men to feel safe, safe to let down their guard, to be vulnerable and to honor their truth. 


During times of war, soldiers were reminded, “Loose lips sink ships”.   Likewise, the bond of intimacy is a delicate one, which can be shattered by a thoughtless indiscretion.  The bonds of trust are delicate.  They can be likened to flames on a candle.  When guarded and sheltered from an errant wind, they burn bright and can light a room.  However, the flame is easily extinguished in that moment when our guard is dropped.  There is a deep power you can access each time you draw a line and stop your mouth just when you were about to run it and make a conscious decision to honor the sanctity of a sacred space. 


            My wife, Dorry, and I have a simple ritual when we go out to diner together.  We can talk about others   during the appetizers, about our lives during dinner and then we can look around the room and make up something about a couple at another table for desert.  The subtext is rather simple.  Any conversation about some one else is fairly insubstantial.  Either it is intended to make the speaker feel better about them selves.  Rarely is gossip about someone else’s victory or success.  Rather it is about a tragedy or embarrassment that allows us to think about how lucky we really are.  Another function of gossip is to serve as a prelude for the much meatier discussion about what is up for us.  A conversation about someone else’s infidelity is a hint that Dorry might be feeling like I am taking her  for granted or not really present in the relationship. A tidbit about someone going off to the hospital is her round about way of inquiring how I am doing with my MS.  In any event it whets our appetite for a much longer dialogue. 


The chance to gaze around the room and come up with story about a couple at another table is designed to let us leave the table feeling fulfilled with a nice taste in our mouth no matter how tense our “meal” may have been. We have found it  is hard to touch a nerve when discussing total strangers. 

             One short hand practce I have found useful when someone is looking to engage me in some gossip is to ask a very simple questions, “what does this have to do with your or my life?”  The answer is inevitably “nothing:.  To which I reply, “then I don’t need to hear it.”


Howard Spierer

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