Thursday, April 15

Safe people, safe places

If there was ever a time the world needed some stability it would be right now.  

We’re going to take a few minutes to look at the behaviours and actions of a person you might call ‘safe’. Because right now safe people, and safe places, might just be what people are needing.

What if we could provide the community with some security, not so much in terms of what next month may look like, but in terms of people and places that are consistent, secure, predictable, with peace, hope, that are restorative, in other words safe people and safe places.

Whilst the Bible is very much full of stories of travel, adventure, extraordinary feats of faith, injunctions to go, conquer, take ground; yet the greatest act of faith is to stand the ground of your inner world. To remain steady in the midst of instability.

For this reason Jesus is never described by what He does as much as by who He is. He didn’t say “I am the baker” but “I am the bread of life” – this is who He is (a baker would be what He does). Yet which would you prefer when you are hungry – the baker or the bread?! He never said “I am your chief navigator”, He said “I am the way”. He said “I am the resurrection and the life”, He didn’t say “I am your surgeon”. When we encounter Him, He, Himself is enough.

The Bible also tells us God is our “hiding place”, our “strong tower” and a “fortress”.

We need to understand that safe people and safe places create strong futures.

Safe parents and safe homes create children that grow into adults that are trusting and open. Safe leaders and safe communities create confident people and empowering environments. It’s only in the context of a secure environment do we open and trust.

So how could we describe a safe place? How about a place you can be yourself and not judged, a place you can make mistakes and be forgiven, a place where restoration is placed before pride, a place where you prefer to be than not, a place where consistency of character overwhelms brokenness of personality, a place where reliability is held in balance alongside spontaneity, a place where you feel comfortable taking risks.

So one of the best gifts you can give to your children is safety.

The nice thing about this is you don’t have to be a perfect parent for your children to feel safe.

You don’t have to be a perfect leader to be a safe leader. Yet people will follow a safe leader more readily than a ‘perfect’ leader.

So what does a safe person look like?

they are reasonably predictable in their responses

If you do not know how someone is going to respond today, short tempered, moody, soft, strong, that unpredictability creates vulnerability. We can all work on being predictable with a little self control.

Predictable and reliable is a person who doesn’t easily change their mind, they are not constantly changing their decision or course of direction. Unless through collaboration because a change is the right thing to do. But then it is well considered. So a safe person shows they can be influenced, they are not closed minded.

they have a consistency of behaviour

You create predictability by being consistent in your character. Be a person of values and stick to them. They may not be perfect values or all encompassing values, but if you remain consistent, not only does your character form with strength, you will provide consistency to those around you.

A person of integrity with a moderate vision will carry a family or an organisation further by far than a person of grand vision who lacks integrity. A lack of developed character will always be the unmaking of any of us.

Integrity simply means, I say what I mean and I do what I say, I can be relied on.

they use carefully chosen words

A safe person is thoughtful. A safe person will speak in a way that places themselves in the other persons shoes. Empathy is a parent or a leaders greatest strength. A few carefully chosen words can be the difference between a person feeling like you believe in them or not.

they have no problem with showing their love

Now this is an interesting one, because we all express love or like to receive it in different ways. It even varies from generation to generation. There is still a generation alive today who certainly didn’t express their love with hugs. A generation where “children were to be seen and not heard”!

Now whilst this is less than ideal, it does not mean those children in that context did not feel love. That largely comes down to the warmth in which other means of expression maybe used.

So whether you hug, use the words “I love you” (my wife uses this on the end of so many phone calls to anyone!), or through expressions of interest, attentiveness or acts of kindness we can all find ways to show we love. And repeat these behaviours over and over.

I can sometimes notice the difference between someone who was raised in a safe place and one who wasn’t. It shows up in their behaviours, slow to trust, slow to show their vulnerabilities and less open.

Great people are safe people, great leaders are safe leaders.  You can take great risks and still be a safe place.

So where can you start in being a safe person, creating a safe place amongst the people you are in relationship with? Try out these simple pieces of advice.

Before we get dulled by our environment, bring joy

Don’t be too serious, too harsh, have some fun, smile and bring joy. The world is small enough and dull enough as it is right now, with very little excitement or stimulation. Bring some joy.

You can’t always be hounding or pushing your kids, your spouse, or your friends.  The relationship has to be saturated in joy, freedom and fun.

Before picking up your phone, be present

We’ve gone from connecting face to face to connecting thumb to thumb. Where we used to meet, we now call, where we used to call we now app. Our communication style has begun to reflect the adverse effects of isolation.

Let’s escalate our presence. Where you were going to app, consider calling; where you were going to call, try a video call (look into their eyes), or meet face to face AND be present, not on a device, be present with your attentiveness not just your body!

Before being ‘right’, be kind

Chris Pringle, co-founder of the C3 Church Global movement, puts it like this “Before pressing send, wrap your words in kindness; before speaking that prophecy, wrap your words in kindness; before sending that mail, wrap your words in kindness.”

As a teenager I used to love arguing with my father over the dinner table. The funny thing was though, the next day in school I would have the same argument with someone at school but now be arguing my fathers point of view! Because it was the thrill of being right that drove me. But being right will never enhanced a relationship! But being kind will.

In the last few months it seems like everyone has become a scientific expert on a certain pandemic, after reading a few blogs and watching a youtube video!  Or a political expert after watching 4 news items and throwing in a personalised filter.  And so the opinions fly around with great vigour.

Jesus didn’t tell us to be right but to be loving. Jesus said people know me by how much you love one another not how correct you are. Before being right, be kind.

Before looking for an apology, say sorry

I know it maybe the other persons fault! However, rather than waiting for an apology, try saying sorry, it opens a restorative conversation.

A safe person is a restorative person. This means we have our hearts turned toward people, not away. We don’t build up walls, we repair. We don’t ignore that which we are becoming aware of.

The prophet Malachi said that God would turn the hearts of the parents toward their children and the hearts of the children toward their parents. If we can keep our hearts turned toward people, pull down walls that may emerge in our hearts, and not ignore what we are becoming aware of, we will be a restorative person. Safe.

Before trying to be ‘just you’, be Jesus

Let’s not lower the bar of what we can give people by an over sincere sense of authenticity. People’s favourate saying today is “just be yourself”. However, what if ‘just yourself” isn’t the best version of you?! You are completely unauthentic and selling yourself short by ‘just being yourself”.

You are never better, never more authentic than when you are in Christ. Before trying to be ‘just you’, be Jesus to people.

Let me conclude by saying clearly and definitively that ‘safe’ does NOT mean conservative. You can be a parent or a leader that takes risks, that takes people on an adventure, in fact you must! Adventure is the fuel for releasing the potential in us.

Safe is not about the journey you travel it is about the character you display.

Go ride some necessary waves, take some essential risks, step out of the boat but be a safe person, that creates safe places. The world needs you right now.