I shared in a previous blog post, Don’t Hide Your Crazy, the importance of sharing our untidy stories and struggles as a means of helping others. In today’s post we look at an important corollary: we must discern what, when, and with whom we share. That’s where it can get tricky. Some may consider those two concepts mutually exclusive, but they actually go hand in hand.
I’ve struggled with this issue for most of my life. At times I’ve been so afraid of letting my real self show that I would only relate to others on a very superficial level. That left me lonely and feeling as if I was the only person wrestling with the kinds of thoughts, feeling, and experiences I was going through.
Then, there was a period where the pendulum swung to the opposite extreme. I would indiscriminately blab my deepest, most personal experiences and thoughts to anyone. That bit me! I learned, after being burned a few times, why that is a reckless way to share.
The key isn’t a one-size-fits-all level of self-disclosure. Rather, it is a process for intentionally determining the best level of disclosure for the current situation.
By “best” I mean the level at which you are being authentic, sincere, and able to be of help to the person(s) with whom you are communicating. It also means, the level at which you are emotionally and physically safe and at which you are not sharing information the other person doesn’t need or want to hear.
Divine Self-Disclosure is Authentic and Discerning
God gives us a wonderful example of self-disclosure in the way he revealed his glory to Moses in Exodus 33:18 – 34:8. In a moment of great need, Moses asked to see God’s glory: a full revelation of God. The Lord explained that Moses could not see the full glory of God and live. Instead, God revealed as much of himself as was beneficial to Moses. When he met with Moses on Mt. Sinai, he revealed to Moses his divine nature and his plans for the covenant relationship between God and his people. This revelation sustained and refreshed Moses so he could handle the enormous challenges he faced.
Later, Jesus would similarly reveal his divine nature on a mountain to a small group of carefully chosen disciples (see the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36). Notice how he entrusts this revelation to them and how they respect that trust by honoring the limits Jesus placed on their sharing of the experience. Again, the revelation would equip the recipients to fulfill their mission and calling.
God reveals God’s self in an authentic way in each of these examples. He also models the use of discernment and discretion in both accounts. While these examples don’t provide us a cookie-cutter formula for determining how much of ourselves we should reveal in every situation, there are some principles demonstrated in these stories which will help inform our decision-making process.
From my study of scripture and my own experience, I’ve developed a process I use when trying to determine what to reveal, when, and with whom. The process involves assessing three things. You might find it helpful to print out the infographic outlining the key steps of the process. To get a copy sized to print on letter-sized paper, just click the button or image below.
Send me that infographic, please!
I’ll go over these steps in more detail during the remainder of this post.
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