Safe Spaces

When I think of safe spaces, I begin by thinking back to adolescence, the year that our guest preacher was asked to leave camp. Early in the week he told our youth group that we were quenching the Holy Spirit. For the life of us, we did not know what we had done beyond just being ourselves.

And there we have it; simply being ourselves will resurrect hurts in others, hurts that have not finished speaking. Developing into True Self can elicit all kinds of negative reactions from others.

It is odd; I do not remember our guest preacher saying those words as much as I remember our own church’s minister exhibiting mercy, by asking him to leave. I suspect our spiritual overseer knew that we had adequate challenges elsewhere and that his responsibility was to create a safe space for a group of impressionable teenagers.

Whether we are pastors, spiritual directors, formal companions or simply friends, during others’ development or crises, we are safe people when we remain attentive to their needs rather than allowing ourselves to get pulled back into our own hurt-filled energy. But how do we do that?

Before speaking, we can pause to check our motives. We can ask a few questions such as: Does my energy reflect wisdom or a personal wound that is not yet healed? Do I have an agenda beyond creating a safe space for the other? Do I need to quiet any destructive presence within me while I create a safe space for the other?

When we disallow full transformation of our abuses, we have a need to restrain others, keeping them small and forbidding them to partake in the grandness of life. But when we choose to convert our crises, we are able to offer grace, while refusing to let those who have not adequately dealt with their stuff, shortchange our lives.

It is possible to die to self for the sake of others, keep healthy boundaries and choose life, but only by taking one honest step after another. Speaking truth to others, in love, and personally having an open spirit, rather than attaching to particulars, seem to be key in creating safe spaces.

Sacred Ruminations*