A Japanese manufacturer sat in a meeting with his American customers. After discussing a new product the Americans had developed, Mr. Smith requested from Mr. Sugihara not to reveal his plans to anyone. The Japanese man smiled and took a pencil in hand. He drew one vertical line on a paper. “Whenever one man shares a secret with only one other,” he began, then drew a second vertical line, “eleven people know.”
Once upon a time, when one used the word “leak,” one was referring to a pipe, a roof, or some other item that involved water. Today, however, the “leak” refers to a breach of confidentiality, exposure of information meant to be kept secret. Gossip columns and media outlets profit from revelations of secrets not meant for public “ears.” Governments are having trouble keeping information under wraps, and manufacturers’ production plans are revealed in advance of the intended release dates. It seems as if nothing is secret anymore.
Keeping a secret is difficult. The excitement, attention and ego boost achieved by knowing something others do not provides a spiritual “kick” that is hard to resist. If I am privy to information you would like to know or need to be aware of, then I am empowered and in control.
Too often, the desire to feel important overcomes the propriety of silence. But in fact, one who overcomes the urge to reveal a secret will feel far greater satisfaction than the one who “tells all.”
Work on yourself to control the urge to let others know. After you hold back once, it becomes easier, and with each success it becomes more so. Try it and you’ll find that the satisfaction and the ego boost from not telling will eventually surpass that of revealing what you know.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
Rabbi Salanter observed, “The distance between the mind and the heart is as far as the distance from the earth to the heavens.” In other words, what we know is not what we necessarily feel, nor does it govern our behavior. Mussar teaches that desire silences the protestations of the soul by intensifying until it extinguishes all objections. (Rabbi Zvi Miller, Windows of the Soul, p. 66)