Dr. McKnight: Have you found success in the use of self-disclosure?
Yes, I have found much success through the use of self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is a tool that I have used since I was young as a youth leader in my church. Growing up I had amazing people speak into my life and did so through telling their story, or at least the ones that were relevant to my situation in the moment, and how they overcame it. They modeled vulnerability, humility, and grace without judgment. They met me where I was as a 14-year-old teenager and showed me that in Christ I did not have to struggle alone, and that through faith I would make it through no matter what. Those wonderful people, many of whom I am still good friends with, bared their scars so that I might feel safe in sharing my wounds.
🙂 ***ATTENTION!! SELF-DISCLOSURE AHEAD*** 🙂
I struggled a lot in my home life as a child, teased and bullied at school, my mom and her various husbands and boyfriends always drinking and putting themselves first and the children last. Many times, I had to call the police to protect my mom from domestic violence and other ridiculousness that a child of 8 or 9 should not be having to do.
When I went to church I felt safe and loved, and one day (while still in the 8th grade) the high school youth pastor invited me to join the leadership team for the sr. high youth group. My pastor sort of took me under his wing, he saw a potential in me that I couldn’t have imagined. One day he looked at me and said, “one day you will do great things, I believe in you and I cannot wait to see what is in store for your life,” in essence he had understood my purpose long before I would. He saw something in me where no one else in my life did or at least pointed out, and to this day I am still moved at the memory of those words and how deeply they impacted me. I had hope and I had faith, and it changed the course of my life, from then on I chose to be the best person I could be, knowing that God was on my side and doubt was not in His vocabulary. It was then that I began to strengthen my relationship with Jesus Christ, and He showed up through the youth staff and adult volunteers that spoke life into me and gave me the confidence to claim that I was a Jesus Freak…and yes, I do realize this ages me a little ;).
Whenever I was struggling with something God would send just the right person, someone who had already experienced what I was at the time and knew just exactly what to say to help. The amazing thing about it was how they shared their stories with me, ones that gave me comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my suffering. In addition to this I was taught how to be vulnerable, as I saw these adults that I didn’t really know at first, come to me and share with me their struggles as a way of encouraging me to keep the faith and take life one day at a time.
Through the vulnerability of self-disclosure and behavioral modeling done by the adult youth group staff gave me a unique opportunity to learn by example, the power of sharing your story and the joy in knowing that I will make it through whatever I had been facing in the moment. It wasn’t too long after this that I found myself talking to my peers, sharing my struggles at the time as a way of breaking the barrier of fear that someone might actually know the horrors happening at home.
Sharing my experience fostered trust and a willingness to talk about things they normally bottled up. At 36 I can say that I have quite the story, much of it tragic, but all of it was worth it as it brought me where I am today. There is strength in our testimony of how God can get you through the worst of things, our stories give hope and motivation. As a life coach, within the scope of my earlier post, trust and comfort comes when you are willing to meet the client in their circumstance in a non-judgmental fashion, humbly sharing parts of their story to gain trust through similar experiences and triumphs over them. Hope is an amazing thing to have and combined with unconditional love anything is possible. Manifest Destiny.