My mentor once told me, “If you want to be like God in your relationships, reveal yourself slowly.” This derives from the Christian understanding of God progressively revealing Himself throughout history. While it has been several months since my professor said this statement to me, it has only been recently that I have started to understand what he really meant. God did not rush to reveal who He was since the beginning of creation. He did it slowly, over time. An example would be the doctrine of the Trinity. Who would have expected God to be three distinct persons, but one in essence?!
Now when you first read that quote, you were probably thinking about it being within the context of a dating relationship, and you are right for thinking so! While I believe this approach applies to all relationships, I shall focus on the aspect of dating.
I used to think that if you wanted to date someone, you were supposed to let that person know right away and try to reveal as much as you could of yourself. Now, I look at that idea as premature, irresponsible, and dangerous. Why? Because when you take this route you will inevitably overwhelm that person with mass amounts of information. There is no time to process or enjoy the different aspects of one’s personality. While I cannot be for certain this is a reason as to why God chose to reveal Himself slowly, I can say that people may feel overwhelmed when a person tries to reveal his or her entire life over an hour long coffee date, which becomes more like a counseling session.
Revealing mass amounts of information about yourself to someone you barely know can have severe consequences. Not everyone is mature enough to be trusted with certain information. I am not sure if this has a factor in why God choose to reveal himself slowly, but we all know we can’t tell everyone everything. That is one reason why we trust some people in our lives with more information than others.
Think about the close friendships that you have had where you revealed a lot about yourself. Those include your likes, dislikes, fears, dreams, etc...The recipients of this knowledge are usually the ones that understand how you act and react. And what is most interesting about these relationships is sometimes all you need to communicate with them is a look. Why? Because you have revealed enough about yourself to where they have learned how you see yourself, others, the world, and God. This type of relationship doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. It is a process of deep and mundane conversations, and let us not forget the everyday experiences.
The people that understand us best are typically the relationships we have grown to value and cherish. So my encouragement is this: do not rush to reveal yourself with someone because the recipient will rarely be able to process or enjoy the different aspects of your personality. Dating someone is not just about finding a spouse, but rather finding someone whom you love and enjoy revealing yourself to progressively.
In terms of applying this mindset to relationships, here are five pieces of advice that I believe can help in progressive self-revelation of your personality in the pursuit and context of a dating relationship:
1. Listen well and speak clear.
2. Stay on topic, don’t force an unrelated topic into the conversation.
3. Enjoy the mundane conversations, because in those conversations, the time spent together is what's most important.
4. Don’t try and rush to be “in a relationship.” Facebook doesn’t care.
5. Drop gold nuggets. Say something ambiguous, and then later reveal what you really meant.