At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: Therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.Proverbs 20:19
We sometimes believe that the wisdom found in Proverbs is clankingly obvious. Stay away from painted ladies, don’t be a lazy bum, and make sure to rotate your tires.
But there are often shades of meaning to be found in the simplest proverbs, and this one provides a good example.
A gossip or talebearer is not simply one who gets the news out. It is not just a matter of information circulating. The first thing this proverb tells us that the person who “goes about” as a talebearer is not just someone who spreads the news. He is also one who reveals secrets—telling things that ought not to be told at all.
The second thing is that one of the “tells” of a talebearer is the fact that he is a flatterer as well. In other words, one of the ways he gets his hands on the information he wants to circulate (and to reveal) is by means of flattery. He butters you up, you begin to trust him (for how could someone with such fine insight into your character be untrustworthy?) and so you confide in him. You can keep a secret—its the people you tell who can’t. Suffice it to say that talebearing and flattering are sins that go together. They pair well, in other words.
The last thing we can draw from this proverb is that we are supposed to avoid certain kinds of people. In this case, we are told to avoid a person who is constantly telling you how wonderful you are. That’s a real danger sign, right there. That kind of thing can be fun to listen to (particularly if you believe you are not getting the respect you deserve in other departments of your life), but it gets kind of thin and pale after just a bit. But even if it didn’t get old for you, you are likely going to pay a price for that flattery when your secrets start to circulate.