“Right to Know”…. Or Gossip?

“Too many secrets” was the underlying theme of the early 1990’s movie, “Sneakers.”  The theme was voiced a few times as “bad guys” and “good guys” tried various means to secure a little box developed by a mathematician which could break “unbreakable codes.”  The much-wanted item could be hooked up to a computer and give the user access to any database, federal or private.  Obviously, these individuals did not have the “right to know” the information they wanted.

Information powers the world as never before.  Its use can accomplish great good or great evil in business and international relations.  The same is true with our personal relationships.

A good example of this occurred recently at my workplace.  A member of the crew had known that some had felt negatively toward her and she felt compelled to know what had been said about her.  She pressed a younger co-worker for the information.  He tried various ways to be polite and avoid the issue including that he didn’t “feel comfortable talking about it.”  She tried to use the argument that since the information was about her, she had a right to know about it.  In a sense, she was claiming “too many secrets.”  To his credit, he didn’t cave in.  Shortly afterward, I complimented him for his resolve.

“Right to know.”  It has received increased recognition over the last few decades with regard to government operations which had been previously kept secret, yet deserved scrutiny from the public.  But with any awakening, it can be taken to an extreme in the other direction.  This, too, applies to our personal relationships.  We have an unquestioned right to know about anything which may cause harm to people or reputations.  In that work situation, the older employee was not in any danger from the criticisms said behind her back.  In addition, her wish to find out was not from an expressed desire to mend relationships.   The young man was, therefore, morally justified in not telling what he had heard.  Congratulations to him for being able to discern between helpful informing and plain ol’ gossip!

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