Creating Safe Places


Our choice is between feeling the sharp pains of self-discovery or enduring the dull ache of unconsciousness that will last for the rest of our lives. Suppressing our pain isn't ending our pain, it's simply displacing it. - Marianne Williamson

A little brutal honesty today. Since before the election the idea of safe places has been on my mind and heart. Our world, our nation, our community is facing some incredible challenges. We have become divided and siloed. We surround ourselves so often with people who think and look like ourselves, that many of us have lost the ability to have a thoughtful conversation with someone who views the world differently than us.

Many have come to believe that if a person doesn't have the same value system as us, then we can't have relationship with them. But isn't that exactly what we all get so upset about when we look at the injustices which have happened throughout history? How could they have such a lack of acceptance, how could they not see how they were hurting people? Yet we persist in punishing those who think differently than us. It has become acceptable to berate and demonize them, treating them as though they aren't human.

Every tree, therefore is valuable in the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way around, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance. - Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees

Some of my fondest memories have been intense conversations with people who had drastically different viewpoints than myself. They forced me to learn to articulate my thoughts and feelings. Just the other day I felt that my brain was tired (our brains are muscles, it happens!) after spending a whole afternoon trying to communicate with someone whose mind just worked and saw things differently than mine. When I walked out of the meeting I found myself rather frustrated, but a couple of hours later I realized that situation was teaching me something. That person was showing me how to communicate better.

Quite frequently the people who have provided a safe place for me to process my thoughts and feelings were those who came from utterly different and sometimes even polar opposite backgrounds and mindsets. We grappled together with viewpoints and struggled to have patience with each other. I can't begin to say how thankful I am for the people who didn't hold my words against me - because if we do not allow each other room to learn and grow, to change our minds, then we bind people to their past in a way that we would never want to be bound ourselves.

A safe place does not require us to speak everything perfectly. Quite often it is the place where we are allowed to work through our thoughts and there is grace when we stumble and find ourselves falling short of the words needed to articulate our heart. Conversations have this amazing ability to hold up a mirror to us, are we looking to see what is revealed?  What happens if we look through the lens of love. Try to understand that there is an untold story which has shaped every person's life. Try to not view them from a place of condescension. Rather come to the conversation curious, with a child-like wonder, hoping for good. Be the one who helps others to speak their best.

Unfortunately, sometimes we have to go through the hard stuff in order to have greater understanding for others. The pain of our past can either fuel our opposition to another, or cause us to be a conduit of tenderness. It is when we have looked deeply within and felt pain ourselves that we can be of most service to love. We have the power, each of us, to provide safe places and peaceful havens, for those who need to share, to be known and to be loved regardless of their past, present or future. You never know if perhaps today will be the day that we support someone whose life intersects with ours, and then tomorrow they end up speaking just the words of encouragement needed to heal our weary hearts.

Each and every person is a priceless living wonder. Perhaps not every moment we spend with them will be rosy and beautiful. But the fact that we try to understand and be there for each other even through our differences, our individual highs and lows, that can be the change this world longs for. Yet if we come to a place where all effort has been exhausted and conversation is no longer possible, let us say:

May he be blessed. May he be happy. May he be loved.


Ps: I know this was a LONG one, and can you believe only one photo? These kinds of posts are rare, but I am thankful you stuck through to the end :)