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Becoming a safe person

“I don’t hate you, Seth” said the man who had been designated as my mentor.   “Well, that’s a comforting thing to establish!” I thought to myself. Although I’d never been sure what to expect from him, the idea of hatred was not something I’d considered.   He had undermined my ef…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
“I don’t hate you, Seth” said the man who had been designated as my mentor.
 
“Well, that’s a comforting thing to establish!” I thought to myself. Although I’d never been sure what to expect from him, the idea of hatred was not something I’d considered.
 
He had undermined my efforts to get my job done for reasons that I still don’t understand 30 years later. But his words are with me still. He may have been successful in business, but he was not a guy to be trusted. And since meeting him, I seem to regularly meet people like him. They’re discouraging in a team and crazy-making in a family. They are unpredictable and not safe.
 
Think about someone you know who is not a safe person to be around. Maybe someone in your family or at work. They may twist your words. They may be sarcastic. They may be manipulative. They probably don’t realize how off-putting they are. They just slipped into some negative patterns of behavior along the way. And now, that’s how you think of them.
 
Here’s a principle I try to live by: If I want to find safety in a relationship, I should become a safe place for others first.
 
I need to begin with the kind of friend that I am. Do I listen? Do I show that I care about others? Can I maintain confidences? If I’m in conflict with someone else, what will they say about the way I treat them?
 
Too many of us are not safe places. Maybe because our own needs don’t get met and we’re operating at a deficit, people don’t know if they can trust us or not. We’re not safe.
 
If you don’t have many close friends, then this may be a reason why. We may not even realize how our friends are holding back in conversation with us. We may think that their silence means they’re preoccupied or they’re in a mood, when really they’re just wondering how to act around us.
 
Lots of people are not safe to be around. We don’t really know if we’ll be accepted or manipulated or in some way used. Unsafe people are preoccupied. Running at a deficit, with their own needs demanding attention, they are energy drainers. They leave a trail of bodies in their wake.
 
To become a safe place, we need to begin by becoming self-aware. A good season of guided reflection can help you, but there’s no better tool than the tool of 360 degree feedback.
 
Try this: Ask your friends or teammates to anonymously evaluate if you are safe for them to be around. And if the feedback shows you have room for improvement, then perhaps you may want to begin by working on your listening skills.
 
You may want to ask for further feedback about ways that people find you unsafe. Make yourself accountable to someone you trust. Ask them to coach you in the things that make a person safe: listening, confidentiality, and respect for starters. It may tweak you, but it’s worth the effort.

Comments (13)

  • So thought-provoking…

    My husband’s heart is safe with me… and mine with him… and we have remarked upon that time and again in the years we’ve been married… and thanked God for it… that our hearts are safe with one another and need not fear…

    It’s how God wants it to be between us, and it seems natural that it should be so… and we both honestly thank Him for giving us the love and desire and grace to keep it that way.

    I forget tho, that it’s not just my husband whose heart I should keep safe, but other people’s hearts, too, or, in your words, different words… that I should strive to be a safe place for other people, too. Thank you, Seth, for the insight…

  • This post hit me hard…right after I sent off a sarcastic response to a friend who I’m growing distant with. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Thanks Seth. I’ve miserably failed and sometimes succeeded on this front.

    Most of what I’ve learned in recent years is that there are toxic communities I just have to avoid. Things are not always as they seem and if any of us keep going back for a drink of water from a soiled pool…shame on us.

    With respect…all of us have the tendency to become a focus group of “one” where our feelings and perceptions are extrapolated as “reality”. That is where real community comes in.

    I am so much more enjoying new Catholic friends these days. It has required some “re-languaging” on my part but they feel much safer than the Evangelical enclaves I barely recognize anymore and have no appetite to return towards.

    I’m thankful for the journey and the times our lives have intersected.

    Love and respect from a ragamuffin…

  • For those who thanked me, you are welcome. It’s hard to be a human being. We are needy and prone to graceless behavior. We are prone to look at the look at the lack in others before looking at ourselves. I appreciate knowing that others struggle as I do.

  • Ha! Yesterday a friend and I were having coffee at a little Mexican coffee shop talking about how the world needs safe people, so I went back to the orphanage and spent an hour journaling some thoughts on how I can become more safe myself. This morning I did a quick google search on “how to be a safe person” and then BOOOOM!!!!! I’m taken to this six year old blog by my man Seth Barnes! You continue to challenge and guide me Seth. So good. Thank you for this. The 360 degree feedback is always terrifying, but necessary.

  • Oh, my. I’m imagining how this is so relevant for a marriage relationship also…

    “Unsafe people are preoccupied. Running at a deficit, with their own needs demanding attention, they are energy drainers.”

    Are we a safe spot for our spouse?

    Thank you – lots to ponder.

  • I have not always been safe for others. I have only come to fully see and understand this in the last few years. Deeply buried anger from my childhood would suddenly surface and sideswipe someone close and dear. It grieves me that I lost several friends along the way before I fully realized this and began to come to terms with it. God is so patient; I am grateful for important others in my life who have been patient with me, too.

    Judith

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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