My father, because of bad behavior, is a prisoner at sixty years of age…. I visit him every couple of weeks with my children. We take him money and food, and some aunts also visit him and take him food.

One of those aunts just told me that my dad has revealed embarrassing secrets about our family, specifically about my life with my husband and children. I feel betrayed and angry, and have no desire to go back and visit him…. I am just furious!

Dear Friend,

We are very sorry that this has happened to you. However, you have left out an important point in your story that really makes a difference in what happened. Did your aunt just say that your dad revealed embarrassing secrets, or did she give you the shameful details of those secrets? Let’s imagine that the secret is something easy to describe, like the color of your shirt. It is like the difference between your aunt saying, “Your father said what color it is,” and saying, “Your father said that it is blue and yellow.” In the first statement, your aunt could be trying to make you think that she knows the color, claiming that he said what he really didn’t say, whereas in the second statement there is no doubt that he said it, because she knows the colors are blue and yellow. Is there proof that he really told the secrets, or did she just say that he did?

Your aunt may have learned a little information, and her curiosity caused her to want to know all the information. So if your father said something completely innocent, such as, “After all the problems that they have had,” then your aunt may have thought, “What problems? I wonder what he’s talking about. I’m sure there’s a way that I can get my niece to tell me.” In that case, your aunt may have said it to you in a way that would open the door for you to tell her more. People who do this kind of thing love gossip and love knowing the inside story. They don’t even consider the emotional pain that they are causing. They think of it as normal behavior, as just being “curious,” while it is actually malicious gossip.

King Solomon, famous for his wisdom, shared that wisdom in the book of Proverbs. He had much to say about the sin of gossip, including that “a perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”(1) We don’t know exactly what your father said, nor do we know what your aunt’s intentions were, but as Solomon said, gossip separates friends. It also separates relatives, and certainly stirs up conflict in families. So we advise you to not make any decisions without sufficient proof of what really happened.

If your aunt has told you the actual embarrassing secrets, proving that your father did in fact reveal them, then you have every right to confront your father and tell him that you will no longer be telling him anything important, because he cannot be trusted. In that case, it is also possible that your aunt was trying to protect you from future problems, rather than trying to stir up conflict.

We wish you the best,

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