I actually don’t like that term “safe” since it’s definition is: absence of risk. We all know that no part of life meets that definition. I think we’ll go with “safer” people. The concept has been mentioned in previous posts so I thought it time to focus on what I mean by this business of finding and connecting with safer others as we work on our own personal transformations.
You know that cliche phrase, “birds of a feather flock together”? It’s a cliche because it’s true. We attract the sort of people who match our dysfunctions. They either play the complementary role or share similar behaviors. Makes sense that as we address our dysfunctions, we would see increased conflict with our fellow birds, unless they too are willing to transform. As I mentioned in my last post, once we get past the grief of recognizing some birds will be left behind, we face the dilemma of finding new ones. How do we avoid collecting more of the same? How do we identify that which is healthier when we are in the midst of still figuring out our own healthy? There are three components which have emerged over the years in my own life as I am blessed with a tribe of safer people.
Safer people have worked on their own dysfunctions to the point that they are able to focus fully outside of themselves when they are with others. They aren’t perfect but because they’ve taken a long, hard look at their own pain, they don’t retreat into it or project it on to you when your pain surfaces. When we are with these folks, we feel connected and that their attention is focused primarily on us.
This is such an overused word – it has lost specific meaning in our world. In this context, I want to define the word as ‘valuing the other’. When someone values you, they consider the ways in which they speak to and treat you. They make every effort to tangibly demonstrate care and concern; they listen to understand instead of to simply respond. Since they’ve worked on themselves, they’re well aware of their own shadow and so they offer grace for yours. Not that they allow themselves to be taken advantage of, but they don’t shame or condemn.
Keeping it real
Here’s another abused phrase. It has become a way to excuse being a jerk. It’s right up there with, “I’m brutally honest”. That’s not what I’m going for here. What I’m talking about is the person who will be authentic with you. They share their real selves and they tell you honestly, how they are affected by you and how they truly feel. So, once again, safer people don’t avoid confrontation, they don’t allow themselves to be bullied – instead, they find healthy ways to communicate what’s really going on. Because they have established their acceptance of us, we are able to hear these difficult truths and use them in our transformation process.
Hopefully, this begins to ‘flesh out’ the safer people we need to be looking for and gives you a matrix to evaluate the folks already in your life, the new ones you meet and most of all, yourself! For further study – check out Cloud and Townsend’s excellent book on this subject. Books are wonderful but they don’t hold our hands and walk us through so find a wilderness guide to help you if you’re struggling.