Uncertainty Reduction Theory
It is Easter 1982. All of what I had heard about his work with the poor, the sick, and those in need was compelling information and from it I could entertain the idea of getting to know him on a greater level. A part of me wanted to get to know him better, but I wasn’t quite sure how to approach him. My circle of friends all testified of their encounters with him and nothing but positive comments were spoken. In my mind he was the choice for me, yet still I had some reservations. I needed more information because this was a serious decision on my part. I enter into nothing without counsel and inquiry. This decision could be no different.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory delves into initial interaction between individuals. Its premise and name assert how people interact and seek ways to predict behavior in an effort to reduce the uncertainty when meeting initially. It is in this initial stage one seeks out information that will ultimately dictate whether he/she continues to a deeper more intimate level in a relationship or chooses to not go any further in the relationship. This “seeking out” of information can be gathered from a number of resources, all purposed to reduce uncertainty.
I am overwhelmed with emotions. Fear has crept in because I am not perfect and I certainly do not want him to see my imperfections, but his compassion is drawing me to him. I walk towards him and it becomes abundantly clear that everything I have heard about him is true. He has captured my heart and tears are now flowing from my face because in his presence I am experiencing such joy and all the fear and uncertainty I was experiencing has now dissipated. In its place there is a peace that surpasses all understanding. I am in his presence and he is beckoning me to come to him. I see only him, I hear only his voice, and he speaks directly to me. I take his hand because it is stretched out towards me. We embrace and I am safe in his embrace. It is June 1982 and we have officially met!
Social Penetration Theory
I have engaged in the cognitive stress associated with initially meeting someone and I have sought out enough information to propel me into the most interesting relationship I have ever experienced. Now what? Layers have to be peeled away to unveil more of me to him. This revealing can be identified as the Social Penetration Theory.
There are 4 stages associated with this theory that can directly correlate with URT and continue the development of a relationship between individuals. The stages are orientation (small talk while getting to know one another), exploratory effective (an unveiling of one layer of personal information), affective (an unveiling of a deeper layer delving into private and personal information), and the final stage in this theory is the stable stage (the plateau of the relationship and there is now some behavioral predictability in this relationship).
He desires me and I desire him, but I do not really know him and truthfully all that he learns about me I want to be the one to tell him. I trust his sincere heart and concern for people. At this point in the relationship, to be anything less than honest would be detrimental to our future.
He is a teacher and lives by the highest standards. I love information and structure so that is making for a good foundation. He believes in God and so do I. He has had several relationships and desires to be married. I ask him why he hasn’t married yet and his reply was so strong and without hesitation. He is not married because he has yet to find a pure bride willing to submit to him totally. A statement of that magnitude leads me to ask more questions and not once was he annoyed by my inquisition. He simply said, “In all they getting, get understanding.” With all of his disclosure about what he desires I had to follow suit and bare myself to him. It was not easy, but I knew the purity of his heart would expose any impurity in mine.
We talk everyday, multiple times during the day. I never tire of him and he does not tire of me. I believe I amuse him with my childlike belief in his character and the integrity in which he exemplifies himself. This process of getting to know one another has not been easy. It is not because we are not forthcoming with truth, but sometimes I am unwilling to yield to his authority. We have our share of arguments, all of which he wins, but even in the disagreements I have learned more about him and myself. Another layer is being unveiled and if it does not separate, then it must be pulling us closer together. He never moves from his stand and his purpose in life. He does not want me to move either. He is steadfast and he is unmovable. He is strength, power, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. He is patient, humble, loving, kind, gentle, joyful, and temperate. He is Jesus Christ and we have been in a relationship for over 25 years. He has penetrated my heart.
Social Exchange Theory
Now that He is revealed I can wholeheartedly share why I have invested 25 years of my life in this relationship. The rewards of submitting to His authority far outweigh not committing to His ways and standards. The rewards are eternal and carry a far greater value than anything this world has to offer. How did I come to this conclusion? It was through a process of examining the worth of the relationship based upon what I get out of it in comparison to what I have to give or give up for the sake of it. This premise is the Social Exchange Theory. Incorporated in this theory is the idea of exchange patterns where individuals adjust their behaviors in interaction with their relational partners.
Jesus Christ gave His life for me in an effort to reconcile me back to God, my creator. For such a sacrifice, I have chosen to believe in Him and yield my body, soul, and spirit for service unto Him. Because of His love towards me I commit to obedience to His written word. Because He forgave and continues to forgive me of sin, I practice forgiveness. I am conforming into the image of Jesus Christ and this process of behavioral change has been ongoing since my first encounter with Him. It is through a continual dialogue that our relationship develops and I understand fully my purpose on this earth.
Communication is not limited to relationships among individuals, but can extend even into the spiritual realm as well. Although the personal example shared in this paper between me and Jesus makes for some exciting dialogue, never the less the assumptions of the referenced Communication Theories were evident. By definition, communication is a social process in which individuals employ symbols to establish and interpret meaning in their environment. From the initial thought I entertained wanting to know Jesus, communication went into effect to help eliminate any doubt or fear that may have been preventing me from making a decision to choose life with Him. Through dialogue with friends who had accepted Christ and the influence of social norm, as Christianity was a way of life for my family, I was able to reduce my level of uncertainty and mental anguish over my decision. Repenting of my sins and crying out to the Lord were forms of communication in my initial encounter with His presence. Studying the Bible and spending time in prayer became our way of communicating with one another. Everything He promised, through the Scriptures, He proved over and over for me. That established the relationship and gave credence to my decision to continue to seek a deeper level of commitment to Him.
What I had heard coupled with what I had come to believe, and what I eventually came to know about Jesus Christ was only possible through communication. It was effective enough to initiate an introduction, develop a relationship, and sustain it. What has been an interesting finding is the notion that now that a relationship is established, communication has to continue to develop, inquire and disclose. It does not cease.
Communication really is a process that changes over time and uncertainties may still come and will have to be reduced. Revelation of ourselves will still be essential as our relationships continue, and we will have to assess our relationships to determine if they are “cost” effective.
Nelson, Thomas (1997) The New King James Version Study Bible. Passages
Uncertainty Reduction Theory, Social Penetration Theory, Social Exchange Theory. Retrieved on April 7, 2007 http:/changingminds.org/explanations/theories/social_penetration.htm; http:/changingminds.org/explanations/theories/social_exchange.htm; http:/changingminds.org/explanations/theories/uncertainty_reduction.htm
West, R. & Turner, L. (2004). Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application. Boston: McGraw-Hill