Thursday, June 25, 2009

Confidentiality is a bear.

I say that having started two different posts in the past five minutes, thinking that both topics are germane, have gotten me upset about a political or personal issue, and are worthy of further exploration.

Each post was a few sentences underway and then I got a chill: what if this post accidentally reveals something that is confidential? who would be hurt? does it pass the litmus test: is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?

The kind and true parts were there. I could make the post both kind and true. But there is no way I could overlook the "necessary" part. Is it ever necessary to talk about situations of adultery or sexual orientation without the permission of those involved? Nope, not ever.

Confidentiality is one of those tempting-to-set-aside-in-favor-of-drama ethical issues. As both a minister and school counselor, I've known this for a long time. It has also helped me understand that I love drama and the temptation to tell a dramatic story, with identities well-concealed, is something I have to watch out for.

Sometimes it can be done carefully. But the two issues I was tempted to write about began to raise questions in my mind about privacy concerns. So you're not going to get a dramatic story about DADT (don't ask; don't tell) or about my flummoxed reaction upon seeing this morning's headlines about Gov. Sanford. Not that I don't have big opinions about both of them, but my personal connection to each issue, the dramatic story I'd love to tell, makes it too close to the bone for some folks.

Maybe what I can tell you is how ambivalent I feel when I see journalists picking away at the flaws in the work or the life of public figures. While I know that this is one of the hazards of being in public life, I am also appalled that nothing in those lives can be private, that it is all open to scrutiny and speculation.

We as a country seem to feed on the flaws of others; witness Fox News's approach to dissecting every word and gesture of those they don't like. But it's interesting to me to witness, as well, the hypocrisy of those who point the fingers. I need to remind myself that when I point fingers, I too run the risk of hypocrisy. For who among us can cast the first stone? Not me.


Ms. Theologian said...

The same sort of thinking has killed many a blog post for me too, especially the work-related kind.

ms. kitty said...

I'll bet, Ms. T. A common problem and one I imagine many bloggers encounter.

Robin Edgar said...

"but my personal connection to each issue, the dramatic story I'd love to tell,"

Don't tell me *you're* the "other woman" in Gov. Sanford's life. ;-)

You could make millions telling that dramatic story to The National Enquirer etc. if you were. :-)

ms. kitty said...

Oh, Robin, what a hoot! Thanks for a great laugh!

Anna Banana said...

You (and the recent news) made me think of the UU message Rev. Tom Owen-Towle gave us in his sermons and his books: be who you are, be imperfect, be whole. And btw, don't judge.

ms. kitty said...

Good wisdom from Tom, all right. Thanks, AnnaB

Mile High Pixie said...

I too experience a little of this based on knowing who's reading my blog these days. Since my husband told his mom about my blog (for reasons I will NEVER understand), I feel like I have to really think about what I want to comment on, or how I want to comment on it. Oddly enough, my Mom has given me permission to blog on some wacky and very personal stuff regarding her. Go figure. :-)

Chalicechick said...

My mom has also expressed her utter indifference to anything I write on my blog about my family, though I have at times decided that I was abusing the privilege and gone back and edited.

As a lay blogger, I face many of the same issues, including one that will be very obvious given a facebook discussion you participated in.

It does suck. But the potential for hurting people by blogging about a situation that I might understand less than I think I do is so there.

who thinks she understands the particular situation she facebooked about plenty, actually.

ms. kitty said...

Pixie, your Mom is a hoot and I am so glad you have permission to blog about her indiscriminately! Especially Miss Kitty's posts.

CC, I remember that particular FB conversation and how tense it might have gotten. You are so close to the situation that I imagine you have a lot of insight into it. Makes it hard not to offer those insights.

Chalicechick said...

Boy hidey.