Finding someone who’s safe to open up with usually begins long before you actually need to talk.
I’ve made decisions about who to share the most intimate details of my life with based on how people have responded to me in the past. But I also decide who’s safe based on how I see them respond to others.
Sometimes I know they’re safe because of the things they say.
Sometimes I know they’re safe because of the things they don’t say.
Maybe it’s the way they communicate with me nonverbally – a facial expression that’s warm and inviting, that matches the tone of the conversation, that leads me to believe they’re truly invested in what I’m saying.
Sometimes I know whether or not they’re safe by the way they respond to others. Maybe it’s a comment I hear them make in a class, in a small group setting, or standing around talking casually with a group of friends.
Sometimes I know if they’re a safe place for me based on what they find humorous. What they find funny in a television show or movie. Or a joke told among friends.
Sometimes I know they’re safe because they don’t laugh. Especially if everyone else does.
But if I want to know if someone’s really a safe place for me to open up and make myself vulnerable, I listen for what they’ll tolerate from other people.
Because it’s not enough to just not say hurtful things yourselves.
I don’t know you’re really safe until I see that you’re willing to stand up and tell other people – your other friends – that what they’re saying is hurtful.
That it limits the possibility that I’ll ever feel safe with you.
That it closes the door for future conversation.
I wonder how many doors I’ve closed by simply being silent when I should’ve said something.
Or not said something.
I think this is SO TRUE! And…I truly believe that most people don’t give it two thoughts UNTIL someone has brought it to their attention or confessed how it’s hurt them in the past. Maybe the idea of what you’ve written here also extends to us…to call it out when we hear it or later in a place of non-embarrassment. That’s one of the best things about my wife. I remember soon after we were married, we were in a group of people who were griping about something and gossiping in a way that only church people can do…seemed innocent enough to me. Not to Sheryl. She put a stop to it right there. She shut down the conversation saying, “Would we be saying these things if ‘she’ were here?” In fact, I even felt embarrassed for her because she made everyone feel so awkward. Truth was, I soon learned through her most excellent discernment that the embarrassment was not on her. It was on the rest of us. Now, THAT’S the kind of friend you want in your corner right there. And I’m pretty sure anyone would feel safe sharing with someone who’s heart was that deep. Wow…I sure am a lucky guy! 🙂
Thanks for this today, Sal. Always good, but this really is such an important message to us. Our words rarely fall to the ground. Words are important. They are heard. They are absorbed. They shape thinking.
Some of my favorite lyrics from any Broadway show come from a song from “Into the Woods”. These seem to apply here especially….
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen
One of my all-time favorite songs from a musical, Brandon, thanks for reminding us of the truths spoken through it. And I love that Shirley of yours, too – she’s a rare jewel!