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6 Keys To Becoming A Safe Person


Here at Sacred Stories, it is desired that our little corner of the web be a gathering place for connection and for refuge. Here, it is my hope that all those who share or stop by are encouraged, seen and safe.

This space is something we all long for. It's something that can be hard to find and when you find it, can be awkward or difficult to navigate due to the simple infrequency of our exposure to it. But this kind of knowing is sacred. To be known is what we all long for and to be truly seen is our heart's desire.



Sometimes, the first step towards this knowing-ness is becoming that safe space for someone else. I think this is something most of us truly desire but we sometimes don't know how to execute. We all want to be great friends and supportive to those around us. But really living that out means that sometimes people might share hard, messy things with us. It means being comfortable with visible emotion or extended silence. It means acknowledging your limitations and leaning into questions. It means willingly and consciously break your own heart as you hold both the story of someone else and the story teller. Being a safe person is part of loving well. And loving well is flat out dangerous.

This task can be hard. No, it is hard. You can take the easy route and only send the quick text or write the sterile note or and keep our hands clean (please note: these are good things. Please write people notes and send those kind messages. They just aren't all there is.). Or, we can move out of our comfort zones and into the life of someone else, giving them space, safety, and freedom to tell their story. To be chosen as the steward of the story of another person is a sacred thing and it's a responsibility that can't be taken lightly. It must be handled with boldness and gentleness, humility and confidence. It's not easy. But it's a beautiful gift.


So, how do we do this?

1. Tell Your Story


This is sort of a preparation step. In an ideal situation, those desiring to become safe people for others in their circle begin by sharing their own story openly, honestly and respectfully. Each of our stories has good and bad, happy and sad, easy and hard chapters. By sharing, you are beginning to tell the hearer "Go ahead. There's no judgment here. Only love and a desire to truly hear and see you. Don't worry, I've got my junk, too. Thank goodness for Jesus."

 Let me be clear, if someone is opening up to you, please please please do not make that conversation about you. Willingly take the backseat and, as my dad would have said, put on your listening ears. There is nothing worse than finally having the courage to open your heart and the story you've lived to someone else, only to have them essentially say "That's nice. So nice, in fact, that it makes me think all about me. Let me tell you about myself." You don't have to be robotic and you don't have to specifically avoid all thoughts pertaining to yourself. Share! It's a conversation, after all. It just simply means that we need to keep the focus on the other person.



With that said, TELL YOUR STORY! There's no safer place for someone to share than with someone who knows what it's like to be known and desires to give that gift to others around them.


2. Think Before You Speak


You don't need to have all of the answers. You don't need to make sense of things or fix anything. You don't nee to be the hero. Don't say dumb things. Think about what you are saying before you say it.

Here are some guidelines:

a. With grief or difficulty: No trite Christian sayings. None. Zero. They aren't helpful and you know it. Yes, they are said with the best of intentions but they can ultimately lead to bad theology and a feeling that you aren't safe to talk to. 

b. Say something. Yes, it's true. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. I get it. It's easier and safer to say nothing than to risk saying something wrong. We have all been caught with our foot in our mouth, realizing we said something wrong. Simply learn to say you're sorry. People appreciate honesty and they feel safe when a friend is vulnerable enough to admit they made a mistake. But don't let this fear keep you from loving well. There's nothing worse than walking through something incredible or something difficult and having your friend say nothing, leaving you feeling forgotten. Let them know you see them. 

c. Refer to Point 1: Don't make it all about you. 

d. Ask a few thoughtful questions rather than using imperative statements. A question born out of true listening can go a long way in moving towards healing, processing pain, making a decision or simply deepening a relationship. 


Still unsure if it's safe to say? Nine times out of ten there are two responses that are likely to be helpful:

1. In a moment of triumph or celebration: That's incredible! I'm so happy for you! Let's grab a coffee/meal to celebrate! I want to hear all about it. 
2. In a moment of grief or pain or fear: This really sucks. I'm so so sorry. When you're ready, let's grab a coffee/meal on me and we can talk more about it. Or we can not talk about it. Either way, I'm here and I'm praying (for real).

 "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15 
This truth alone will take you a long way in becoming a safe person.


3. Let Them Lead


When someone is sharing their story with you, let them guide the conversation. Yes, please ask questions. Respond to their statements & really listen. But sometimes you'll need to be comfortable sitting in silence. Take that moment to pray quietly for wisdom or peace or the needs of the sharer.  Sometimes they will overtake the conversation, giving you little room to speak. Other times they will lead the conversation to another topic entirely. All of these things are okay. Let them lead it. They will share as they are ready and the ministry of presence is a real thing. Encourage who they are & demonstrate the safe person that you are. Again, rejoice with them or mourn with them. Don't be afraid of your emotions or theirs. Whatever you do, do not force anything. They are in charge.


4. Maintain Confidence


It is not your story to tell. Period.

5. Accept Ambiguity


Sometimes there will be details left out of the story that are not vital but are OH SO INTERESTING. Don't pry. Accept, once again, that this isn't your story and they are free to share as they wish. Ask helpful questions but never ask questions that are simply to satisfy your own curiosity.

While being a safe person, sometimes people move out of your life. You will have stewarded their story well and eventually they fade out of yours for one reason or another. When this happens, you won't know how things turn out in a story you were passionately invested in. The good news? You can trust the God who is writing the story to be entirely good and to finish the good work He started. He does not forget and He does not fail. 


In both circumstances, accept what you do not know. Accept the ambiguity and get comfortable in it. Your job is to love and steward well. Knowing the outcome or understanding all of the details is secondary. And when you do get to be intimately informed and woven into their story long term? Embrace it. Love hard. Be fully present. Give glory to God for the work you see him doing.

6. Don't Forget


Whatever you do, don't forget the beautiful, unique, sacred story you're told and don't forget the person who told it to you.  No, you don't have to remember every detail or the specifics. But there is something powerful about being remembered. More specifically, about not being forgotten. This is such a beautiful demonstration of the love of Christ, who never forgets us. Whether big, exciting milestones or dark, hard seasons, life moves on and it's easy to feel as though they world kept spinning and left you in its dust. Remember the key dates or hard days and send a note or give a hug. Ask about any updates in a situation or about their favorite memories of a lost loved one. Celebrate exciting anniversaries and milestone moments.  ACTUALLY PRAY FOR THEM, don't just say you are. Always remember that it was an honor to be the ears that were chosen to hear their sacred story of all God is doing and that their story has shaped who they are. Because of this, they might need more grace. Or maybe because of it, they are grace to you. Either way, don't forget their unique God story and don't forget them.


BONUS! Silence the part of your brain that's easily offended. When walking through difficult things or at a different part of their journey, sometimes people say, feel or think things that you may disagree with or may be entirely incorrect. That's okay. Part of being safe is that people don't feel judged. There will come a time where you may be given the opportunity to make a correction or gently guide them to proper, healthy perspective. But in the midst of trial or sharing a fresh, hard story? Just let them be. Earn the right to share hard things. It takes time. 


Who are the safe people in your life? Who might need you to be one for them?


8 comments

  1. This is such an inspiring and eye opening post. As a mom of a teenager (boy) who is about to enter high school, I really feel the draw to be a mentor to young teenagers. I have no idea how or where to start but I do know that this post truly helps me know WHAT to do. I'm pinning this so that I can look back on it in times of need.

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  2. I absolutely love this post. These tips are so, so important--especially those that are an influence to others, younger & older! I'm a nanny to middle school girls & also one in elementary school, and these tips will definitely come in handy. Being their safe person and allowing them to open up in conversation is a blessing. xx, Kristen @ A Classy Fashionista

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  3. This is an excellent post! I am a counselor and have always said that if people just learned some basic listening skills, I'd be out of a job!

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  4. Mmm I love the tip to ask a question instead of making an imperative statement...Also important in sharing the gospel!

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  5. This is such a beautiful post. It's so key. I like the point about letting them lead and not prying for unnecessary details. I've been through a lot in my life and people want to ask a lot of questions, which I am 100% open to, if I'm not in a tailspin. If I'm on the verge of a panic attack, I don't really want to go through irrelevant stuff, but will happily come back to later haha

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  6. So beautiful. It's so important to open ourselves up and allow others to do the same.

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  7. This is so beautiful and so important! This part really got me: "With grief or difficulty: No trite Christian sayings. None. Zero." I want to give you a virtual slow clap for this! I also love #6 -- it's one thing to be supportive int he moment, but it means so much more when someone follows up by saying, "Hey, I prayed for you," or "How are you doing with ___ today?" It shows we really care and take their needs seriously. Also, on a totally unrelated note, where did you get the white ampersand bookends? I've been on the hunt for something exactly like that!

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  8. This is a wonderful read. God's timing is perfect, it was just what I needed. Thank you.

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