I know I missed my second post for March, and I’m sorry, but it wasn’t entirely without good reason as the last few days of March were, for me, relatively insane. Not only did I go to my first writers’ conference, UW Madison’s Writers’ Institute, but I also placed third in their Poem or Page contest for my previously published flash fiction piece “Stitch,” available here. Besides that, I am also helping with a musical, was rushing to make sure I had my writing/pitches/critiques/business cards (redesigned) all in order for various and sundry events and groups and, ya know, work full time.
Excuses aside, let’s get down to business, with the hopes that I will get to post thrice in this wonderful month of April.
Through some conversations I’ve been having lately I’ve really been feeling challenged to decide just what it is that I believe as far as morals or ethics, ways I want to approach my career, my personal life and really, I suppose, life in general. What I’ve discovered, strangely, is a fierceness that I suppose I have been somewhat aware of for some time but never fully realized. A fierceness for, of all things, becoming a safe place, or if you should prefer, person.
This was sparked in part in considering different people I know and how some of them make me feel not so great–poisoned sometimes, even–and how some of them, no matter what, always seem to make me comfortable. And not just comfortable, but brave, loved, supported, encouraged and, particularly when I’m feeling down, cheered. Faced with these feelings I realized that these people are not just people I like, or people that are cheerful or supportive, but people who are “safe.”
And I want to be that.
This of course, with me, requires an examination of character, with some–while perhaps not surprising–interesting findings.
First of all, the people I feel safest with are the people with the best boundaries. As I’ve discovered through too many blog posts to link to here, boundaries are huge. When I look at the safe people in my life, I see that I always know exactly where it is where I stand with them, at all times. If I push a boundary, they back away and protect both of us, and I never feel as though I have to ask to find out where those are.
Secondly, they act with consistency. Part of maintaining boundaries is well, maintaining them. It’s great knowing what to expect when I am with somebody and even better when I know that I can expect that on a consistent basis. This is especially true when I try to push buttons or joke (perhaps when I shouldn’t, sometimes) and they still stick to their guns. I love when people take what they say truly seriously.
Thirdly, they give me the absolute freedom to say no to things. This, again as this blog will show, has typically been a hard thing for me. Not just in sometimes trying to force my own will on others (again and again and again and again…), but also in struggling with the guilt and pressure that comes with not feeling free to say no to others. Safe people make me feel confident that their opinions of me will not change if I say no to things, whether it be taking on new responsibilities I either don’t feel I can or am not ready to take on, invitations to spend time together or anything else. This is probably one of my favorite traits of safe people because when I feel free to say no, I also feel more free to say yes, and to enjoy those times without feeling manipulated.
Fourth, they are sincere. We live in a world where it often feels as though people are trying to “get something” from or out of us, and what I love about these people is that they don’t ever feel that way to me. I always feel that they are saying what they are saying because they mean it and not from ulterior motives, and knowing that makes all the difference in being able to be vulnerable and trusting with someone.
Fifth, they practice transparency. They are open about their own lives and struggles, which in turn makes it safe for me to do the same.
Sixth and lastly, they love me unconditionally. As much as is within human means, these are the people that I feel love me the most. They are people who encourage me even if I am struggling, listen to me when I need someone to talk to, and are willing to walk with me physically, emotionally, mentally and, perhaps most importantly, spiritually. These people are my strongest inner support network, and knowing that they love me often gives me the courage I need to try new things, take more risks and see myself as beautiful where on my own I would not.
I’m sure there are other traits of safe people (tell me what your list is in the comments, please! I know I missed some!), but this is kind of a short list I’ve been ruminating over lately, with the point being that as I grow, I want to become more and more like these people (Jesus in a very real sense being the “safest” person there is). I want to be sincere, to love people consistently and without condition, to love them enough to have and maintain good boundaries and to let them be free to live their lives. I want that to carry out across every aspect of my life, fiercely so, and to continue to grow in it until I become someone with whom people can truly be safe.
So, what do you think makes someone safe? What practical steps have you taken or seen people take in order to fit that model? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!