The Importance of Self-Disclosure
By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Read Luke 10:29-38; 14:7-14; 1 Peter 4:9
So, what is the key to getting out of the locked room at the shallow end of relationships? Well, it is the scary, dark place where most of us fear to go. It is the willingness to venture into the world of self-disclosure. Whether you are very shy or are the life of a party, one of the principle venues to having deep, meaningful relationships is the willingness to share and to listen beyond the surface white noise of life. People need to be heard; and, to be heard you have to listen. You have to share your life. This does not mean you monopolize people's ears, nor do you let all of your problems hang out all of the time. The main issues of closeness are honesty, openness, and transparency, without being overly needy of others all of the time. We also have to remember that to make this work, we have to be accepting of others as persons?not their behavior?especially if they do something wrong.
Many of us hold back from this self-disclosure because it is perceived as a dark place where our fear of being rejected is the only thing we see. We may think, if they knew the real me, they would not be interested in me! But, that is not true. The most boring people I have known have had some of the best and closest relationships. The "Forest Gumps" and "James Bonds" of the world, to whom everything seems to happen, tend to be distant from those close relationships that the "boring" people have. There is no need to make stuff up, wear masks, or hide your true self. People are naturally drawn to others who are real. This is true whether you are living the life of James Bond or Joe the Mole. You are special and unique. The key to making friends is being open, honest, respectful of the other person, and letting people know the real you. God made you special and unique, so do not be afraid of who you are!
You have to be willing to take a chance! Have you ever grasped the magnitude of the fact that Jesus took a chance with you? Relationships require a chance and vulnerability. Once you realize what is holding you back and see God's comfort and grace, you can then start to take chances. The first change is to become the first person to open up. In pastoral counseling, the secret way to get people to trust you?to share?is for the pastor to be willing to open up first. Usually, because they get to know you through the pulpit and life of the church, they are all ready to be open. If it is someone from the community, the counselor often needs to be first in divulging something about himself. This can be a mistake he made that is similar to their situation, or a story?something personal?so you earn the right for them to hear you. It is extremely important to be open and honest. When this happens, trust is established and listening begins. As you go into deeper areas, the relationship grows. It is the same with friendships.
Sometimes, you have to be the one to open up first, even if you are not naturally inclined to do so. Be willing to share first. Yes, it can be hard for some, but the payback is stronger relationships. If this is hard for you to grasp, then consider the life of our Lord when He walked this earth. God Incarnate was very real and transparent, totally lacking of pride and self, totally focused on God the Father and His mission as our example. Jesus did this in a culture where Rabbis were aloof and distant from the people. That is why the people were so astonished with Him. Besides His miracles, He showed He cared! They were shocked that He did this, and it attracted more people than did His miracles!
Remember, honesty must operate in the parameters of character. The real you must also have godly character. So, if you have a ?beef? with someone, being argumentative is not the way to self-disclosure! Nor, are we to reveal feelings and/or information that will put others down; that is gossip and God hates that!
What about people we just do not like? I do not believe that God calls us to hang with people we do not get along with, although we should ponder why we feel this way. It has been my experience that what we hate in others is what we harbor in ourselves!
Another key aspect of friendliness that is attractive to others is how we use warmth and affection. When we are warm towards others, it makes them feel special, and people like to feel special! This, like other characteristics, must be real! If it is pretentious, most people will see right through it, especially kids. This is accomplished best by affirming others and letting them know they are special. There are various levels to this, however. How you express this to your spouse versus to a coworker are two completely different things; if not, you are in sin and in trouble!
We need to be accepting of others. That does not mean we must approve of their bad behaviors or sin. But, we acknowledge them as children of God who were created as we were created, and who are loved as we are loved. Jesus loves all the children of the world! Some will accept His love; others will reject it. We are called to spread it!
1. How would you define self-disclosure? How would your relationships improve with it?
2. Do you realize that you are special and unique? What gets in the way of your realizing how special you are in Christ?
3. How do your friendships succeed when you have the willingness to share and to listen? What happens when you do not?
4. People need to be heard and we have the call to listen. What gets in the way of this from happening effectively?
5. What can you do to be more aware that people are precious and are brought to us for a reason and to enjoy?
6. How would your friendships improve if you sought some more fun as well as seeing others with the excitement of something special?
7. Are you confident that each of your friendships is special?
8. Do you have a fear of being rejected? How so? What can you do to alleviate your fears?
9. To be effective in relationship building, we must be willing to take a chance. How good are you at this? How can you be better at it?
10. What can you do to improve your ability and willingness to apply closeness, honesty, openness, and transparency?
Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5: 13-16
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit?fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17
© 2005 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/