I am both honoured and surprised when people interject in a recovery group or counselling session, “I’ve never told anyone this.” The surprising thing is not the trauma the individual suffered or even their response to it. Time and time again I am surprised to be the first person who has heard of the horrors they have suffered in their lives. Most of these people are Christians; many have been in “the church” for years. Nevertheless, no one really knows the tragedy of their lives.
I’ve often wondered why they choose to share the completeness of their story with me. I used to flatter myself by thinking that it was some super-special anointing of God. Perhaps it is partly that–but not entirely! As I would talk further with these individuals, I would often ask them why they had chosen now, and me, to share their story. While the words were different for each person, the theme was the same. They felt safe.
Sometimes that meant that they knew I would listen and not judge them. Or it meant that I would listen and not give them the five things to do to feel better. Sometimes it was because they felt more comfortable talking with a woman. But in all these cases it boiled down to one reality–they felt safe.
I have come to realize that one of the things God has gifted us to do is to create a safe place for people. In the midst of that emotional, physical and spiritual safety they feel they can finally open up and share the pain, fear and anger in their hearts. As people feel the acceptance that comes when they share their deepest shame with us, they change.
We may wonder why safety is so important. Perhaps that is because most days we take our safety for granted. Most days, most of us are relatively free from danger or injury. We live in a peaceful country, and we expect it to remain that way.