How To Be a Safe Space for Your Friends
Do you get nervous when you’re meeting someone new?
It’s understandable because I believe we’ve all experienced times when we’ve been with women who are quick to compare, critique, judge and belittle.
We want girlfriends, women who can relate to life from the feminine perspective and cheer us on along the way.
I’ve always wanted a sister, so I’m thankful for the sisterhood of friends.
Like you, I still get nervous when I’m meeting someone new.
And that’s where I found myself last week. I packed and repacked my suitcase wondering about these women I’d known online for a couple of years but was meeting face to face. Seriously, there were all kinds of reasons to question whether we’d all get along.
- Age – we spanned decades and I’m the oldest.
- Appearance – admit it, women can be hard on each other.
- Demographics – we’re from different locations and backgrounds.
- Politics – that one doesn’t even need explanation.
- Faith – even though we’re all Christians we’re from different church bodies.
- Blogs – we had every reason in the world to compare and compete.
And that’s a lot of reasons to wonder if I’d be able to relax and feel safe with these new friends.
So, yes, I was nervous.
But it didn’t last.
I quickly realized, this group is safe…
Age didn’t matter, appearance wasn’t important, demographics offered interest and accents. Politics weren’t discussed. Faith focused on Jesus and not on denominational differences and blogs . . . well, we know we’re all better when we help each other.
You might be wondering how I figured that out so quickly…
It happened as we shared our stories and made ourselves vulnerable.
One of the girls said, “I want to know more. Tell me your testimony.”
And we did.
One by one, we went around the table telling each other about our broken places and the beautiful ways Jesus has delivered us and pieced us back together.
I can’t stop thinking about that evening and the beauty of how our hearts connected and one thought keeps coming to mind…
We need to create a safe space for story sharing.
I know “safe space” is a trigger phrase right now but you don’t have to agree to offer safety. Keep reading to learn the 5 things I believe we need to offer safety in our relationships.
How To Be a Safe Space for Your Friends
♥ Really Listen to Their Story
Good listening includes eye contact and undivided attention. It doesn’t interrupt and makes the person talking feel valued. Good listening is patient and humble.
“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words. ” ~Rachel Naoli Remen
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:3–4 (NLT)
♥ Without Judging
It’s easy to blame parents when their children fail. Or ask whether someone diagnosed with lung cancer was a smoker. We want to believe if we “do it right” we’ll be safe from problems; so we blame the person and hope they are just living out the consequences of their less than perfect choices. Oh, we love to judge others by their circumstances.
But the truth is…
If you haven’t lived someone’s life, you have no right to judge them.
It’s just that simple.
“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37 (NLT)
♥ With Compassion, Kindness, and Love
It takes so little effort to be compassionate and kind . . . to let someone know you care more about them than their past and only the best for their future. That’s love. 1 Corinthians 13 Godly love that’s humble, patient, kind, and compassionate.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” ~Plato
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)
♥ With Privacy
We can only feel safe sharing our stories when we trust others to keep them private. It is a rare gift to have someone trust me with their brokenness; so, I always try to remember their story is not mine to tell. I am only able to control the words I speak. Once I tell someone else the private details of a friend’s life, I am potentially opening a floodgate of gossip that drowns our friendship with betrayal and hurt.
“If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” ~Amy Carmichael
A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers. Proverbs 20:19 (NLT)
♥ With Follow-up
Don’t forget to check in with a friend who has openly shared their brokenness with you. Let them know you care about them and that you’re praying for them. Be a living example of God’s love in their lives. I promise it will grow your friendship and bless you both!
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~Albert Schweitzer
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17 (NLT)
Friends, we need to make it safe for our friends to share their stories by listening without judging, with compassion, kindness, and love, with privacy, and with follow-up.
When we do give counsel, may we offer it with gentleness and respect.
May we love well and make it easy for our sisters to safely share their stories because dear friends, it is in the safe space that we nurture our friendships and watch them grow.
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What a blessing it is to have friends like this. I pray that I can always be this kind of friend to others, a safe space. You are a blessing, Deb. Love you!
Love you, too, Dawn! It really is something special. I’m still in awe of the way God put us all together. It is my prayer as well . . . to always be a safe space kind of friend!
Such sage advice, Deb! We do so need to be that kind of friend to others, one who can be trusted, who is loving and understanding, and refuses to be judgmental. What a better world it would be, too, if we all spent less time talking, and more time listening.
Oh, Martha, can you imagine a world where we actually listened to each other with kindness and compassion and refused to spread any unkind word or story. I think that’s called heaven! Love you, my friend!
Friends are such a blessing!!!
Amen, Shannon! Thanks for being my friend!!
Oh friend I do love you so! And I am so glad you were blessed by our beautiful group of ladies! I so wish I could have been there with you, but I was there in spirit. You are a blessing to so many. Love you lots! xoxo
I’m so glad you recognize the gift in friends!! I love your perspective. I had not really given this points much thought before. Good things to remember. Thanks!
I’m working on listening. So often I put huge pressure on myself to have an “answer” when what my friends may really be looking for is just a place to vent and the assurance that I am trustworthy.
So great, Deb. I’m all about safe places because I had a long season where I desperately craved one. As hard as that was, it’s helped me to be a better friend and as you say, listen with kindness and without judgement. It’s such a gift to have those people in our lives who receive us unconditionally, but care enough to pour truth into us too.
Everyone wishes to be heard ,but if each one of us spent time listening then it would cover every one who wishes to be heard.I hope I make sense 🙂 A world were there is no competition or comparison just Compassion and Christian friends.
Thank you Deb!
Everyone wishes to be heard ,but if each one of us spent time listening then it would cover every one who wishes to be heard.I hope I make sense 🙂 A world were there is no competition or comparison just Compassion and Christian friends. I love that we can then find a safe place in each other through Christ .
Thank you Deb!
Deb, this really spoke to me. I struggle with meeting new people. As Elizabeth Elliot shared in one of her sermons, that struggle is really my own selfishness winning out in those situations. Despite my best efforts, that selfishness still makes me very self-conscious in new circles. I appreciate your practical advice. I can be intentional about applying these things next time I’m in a situation making friends.
Oh, Hannah, thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and share your thoughts. I struggle, too! I so want people to like me, so I get awkward and self-conscious. I constantly have to ask God to go before me and give me courage and make me more interested in others than I am worried about myself. It’s a journey, isn’t it?! God’s blessings!!