Proverbs 25:9

ESV Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret,
NIV If you take your neighbor to court, do not betray another's confidence,
NASB Argue your case with your neighbor, And do not reveal the secret of another,
CSB Make your case with your opponent without revealing another's secret;
NLT When arguing with your neighbor, don’t betray another person’s secret.
KJV Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:

What does Proverbs 25:9 mean?

Rather than taking a neighbor to court over a grievance, the offended person should talk the matter over. Once others are involved in the process, the situation can get out of hand quickly. The prior proverb (Proverbs 25:8) noted the embarrassment which comes with making false accusations. Some translations also suggest a warning that accusing one's neighbor can result in your own sins and flaws being made public.

In that sense, this teaching also notes that it's not good to publicly reveal things others prefer to keep private. Of course, there are valid reasons to do so, such as concerns about violence, abuse, or crime. The context here is of a secret that doesn't need to be revealed yet is being aired for improper reasons. This might be done for revenge, pettiness, or simple carelessness. Revealing embarrassing private details about others is not only sinful, but also risky: the one who hears might rightly respond by shaming you for being so cruel (Proverbs 25:10).

Christ's teaching in Matthew 18:15–20 includes this principle. Private, careful confrontation is essential to avoiding undue controversy. That's the case even if there was true harm done: better resolved quickly and agreeably than with undue embarrassment. Of course, not all issues can be resolved privately, and certain issues demand outside consequences, such as in cases of abuse. Private discussion as a first step also helps avoid misunderstanding. Better to learn, in a quiet setting, that something was misunderstood—or to resolve it—than to publicly air false accusations and rumors.

Paul's letter to the Colossians commended kindness and patience. He writes, "bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive" (Colossians 3:13). Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well" (Matthew 5:38–40).
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