Am I Safe?

Am I safe?

As an anxious person (type 6 enneagram), I am no stranger to fear. I remember as a kid panicking in the grocery store when I couldn’t find my mom in 3 seconds or less. But it isn’t just anxious types who feel apprehension and fear. Every human to some degree wants to make sure they are safe.

Perceptions of safety ungird our relationships constantly. Friendship requires a kind of vulnerability that makes even the bravest soul ask; am I safe? Will my honesty and tender places be met with gentleness or judgment? Will I be accepted? Will I be known? Will I be heard? If you are beginning a Syntrek partnership, you might have reservations regarding your emotional safety. Mindy Caliguire, author of Spiritual Friendship notes that safety is a major barrier to soul friendship. Caliguire mentions “listening poorly, giving advice, trying to fix, lacking empathy and self-disclosure, rejecting, manipulating, betraying, judging, gossiping” as pitfalls to any friendship (Caliguire, 38). Once we experience those kinds of disappointments, we often isolate ourselves from intimate relationships. 

Spiritual friendships are worth the risk. In fact, they are a necessary part of our spiritual growth. Good spiritual friends help us grow closer to God, draw close to others, and better understand ourselves. 

Am I safe?

As a peer mentor for first-year students in college, I was basically a living student resource directory. As my small group of students adjusted to college life, I guided them to the staff and departments that might help them. I met with students, developed trust, and created opportunities for students to communicate needs. If a student needed accommodations for a learning disability, I knew the name, number, and office to contact. Sometimes the needs were purely academic, but often, students came to me with vulnerable stories about their mental health and physical safety.  These conversations were emotional and raw. But the help these students received and the positive changes brought about because of their perception of safety made a lasting impact.

The training for the job taught me how to actively listen, how to refer without fixing, and how to keep conversations confidential and ensure the students accessed resources they needed. The training transformed the way I approached relationships. Instead of focusing on my own safety I had to create a safe space for others. We often wonder if others are safe for us. But we rarely consider if we are safe for others. Instead of asking Am I safe? Let’s ask for a moment, Am I safe?

In order to build spiritual friendships we have to know that our most vulnerable self will be met with open arms. We need to develop boundaries and agreements around our time so we know we can share openly and honestly without fear of rejection, retribution, or gossip. Initially, spiritual friendships begin with surface level dialogue. But both parties must be committed to sharing and exploring honest truths about themselves and their spiritual life. In order to do that syntrek partners must keep conversations honest and appropriately confidential* and develop trust with others. We have to share at a “matching intimacy level” (Caliguire, 43) to our partner. We have to share our actual experiences, not just passively listen to others. 

Now What?

Friendship is reciprocal.  Although the mentor role was a formal job and did not have the reciprocity necessary for friendship building, the job taught me a lot about evaluating my own ability to provide a safe space for others. Intentional friendship building means intentionally creating safe spaces for those around you.

Ask yourself:

  1. Can I listen without judgment, advice giving, or manipulation?
  2. Can I keep information private?
  3. Can I share my own authentic spiritual journey with others?
  4. Do I want what is best for my spiritual friend?
  5. Am I drawing my friend closer to myself and others, closer to God, and closer to a deep knowledge of themselves?

These kinds of relationships can be tricky business. But with grace and commitment, it is possible to develop safe, intimate, and life-giving spiritual friendships.

*In some cases, total secrecy is not the best thing for anyone. In that case, information should only be shared with appropriate parties in order to care for the friend as is the case with many mental health struggles.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s