Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I was asked to write about discretion. According to my Longman edition of 1992, discretion is "the quality of being discreet", and being discreet means being "careful and sensible, esp. in what one chooses to say." Discretion went out of the window right after self-control and reserve so that nowadays people tell the most intimate details of their life to nearly perfect strangers.

 I'm afraid it can be especially true of women. I remember how I went to a supermarket once and while searching for meat I had to endure a loud conversation of two elderly women (whom I'm afraid I can't call ladies), where one was telling the other the most unpleasant details of a certain medical examination which she had undergone.

At a birthday party I once attended a woman proceeded to give a full medical description of symptoms of menopause which she was experiencing to a guy who looked as if he'd rather sink through the floor than listen to her. By the way, why is it that people who have various sicknesses or medical conditions think that it amuses others to listen to the stories about their health for hours on end? A dinner party is hardly a place to discuss such things.

Of course, it's true not only about health. It simply makes no sense to burden others with your troubles and problems. Most people who are not your close friends or relatives are not interested and will listen only out of politeness. You may think it's unfair, but it's true. It reminds me of an old joke, that a bore is man who if asked how he is proceeds to tell you exactly that.

It can also be unwise to tell strangers or people you barely know about conflicts or problems in your family. Not only they will lack sympathy, but they can later use the information against you, and considering the modern paranoia about abuse, they can even get you into legal trouble.

It's interesting that the Bible names discretion as one of the qualities of a Titus 2 woman: To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands...Matthew Henry in his Bible commentary refers to discretion as one of the qualities of a good personal character: "To be sober and discreet, contrary to the vanity and rashness which younger years are subject to: discreet in their judgments and sober in their affections and behaviour. Discreet and chaste stand well together; many expose themselves to fatal temptations by that which at first might be but indiscretion. Prov. 2:11 , Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee from the evil way."  (Read the whole commentary here )

Discretion in this context means making wise choices based on reason and not on emotion and not exposing yourself to unnecessary temptations. It's a character quality which our modern society not only lacks, but actively discourages (did you notice how nowadays vice is turned into virtue and vice versa?), so that there is even more reason for those beholden to tradition to practise it.


  1. This is so good and spot on! Discretion is a virtue that is sorely lacking these days. In fact some even think you're strange when you practice it.

  2. Oh thank you so much for this. I just happen to be teaching a ladies Bible class in two days, in which we will discuss the quality of discretion, and I needed some examples. I will just read this to them. It is also popular to tell people you aren't smart, are too fat, have a lot of faults, etc. but it is something they can and will use against you, and revealing personal problems causes others to lack respect and to treat you accordingly.

  3. it's probably done out of sense of false modesty or they are just fishing for compliments. Most women who say that they are too fat expect to be contradicted and assured that they aren't!:) For the record, it's not that I consider it wrong to discuss your problems or your health with a good friend or relative, it's just that certain social settings aren't a place for such discussions. And call me old-fashioned, but I'm firmly of opinion that mixed company is not a place to discuss various female-related medical conditions.