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Safe? or Unsafe?


I love the word ‘FRIEND‘. I consider myself to be one and I love having them. Even just seeing the word ‘friend‘ on a plaque or a poster makes me smile. Spending time with my friends makes me smile even more.


A real friend is someone you feel SAFE with.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this for quite a while, trying to work out the difference between someone you get on with, someone you like, someone you laugh with… and someone you’re safe with. Because liking, laughing and getting on well doesn’t necessarily mean you’re safe with that person… and therein lies the rub, as Shakespeare would say.

Having things in common with another person, even being able to identify with them in many ways, can sometimes trick you into feeling as though that sense of ‘beware-ness’ you’re feeling is incongruent, even wrong. It can make you override the internal gnawing sense of unsafeness and make you say more and do more and trust more than you should in that situation. And then, if that inner sense was right, you’re going to pay for not listening to your gut. Anyone who’s made it to their teen years will be nodding at this point. You don’t have to live very long to experience that kind of disappointment in relationships.

The vital thing to understand about trust is that it needs to be earned; it shouldn’t just be doled out freely to whomever hoves into your world. You meet someone, you like them, they’re fun to be with and you have lots in common; all of that is great. You don’t have to put up your guard just because you don’t know each other well, but nor should you just dive headlong into a relationship of trust. It  takes time to get to know each other and it takes time to build the sort of trust that you can rely on and there are always signs along the path to show if your trust will be respected or not.

Just knowing someone doesn’t mean you can give your trust to that person. How do either of you deal with the other being wrong, or being wrong yourself, or stuff happening that isn’t cool? Every relationship has its trials and pressures and none of us does the right thing all the time. All of us at times take on the role of the Hurter as well as the Hurtee, sometimes both at the same time. Can a relationship get past hurts and misunderstandings?

YES!   YES! A thousand times YES!

If we aren’t able to sort things out in everyday life, giving forgiveness or asking for it, we’ll never build a solid relationship with anyone and that goes for friendships, family, marriage, work relationships, any kind of human interaction and cooperation. Getting it wrong and sorting it out is one of the great wonders of the human condition, and it’s a fantastic aspect of the building of relationships. My husband says that the mend is often the strongest part of a piece of broken metalwork. Something that has suffered structural damage can be most strong where the new welds are; it’s the same with human relationships.

Pains and problems in relationships aren’t something to be afraid of or to avoid. Sorting them out can lead to a far better friendship than was there before; there’s a strength that comes from going through tough stuff together and coming out the other side wiser and more mature. It’s what makes a solid and genuine relationship.

Being in an UNSAFE relationship is totally different. Misunderstandings abound and the process of trying to sort them out only leads to more misunderstanding. Endeavours to be open and transparent can end up making you feel like you’re on the back foot, with the wall behind you. You try to explain, to bring clarity, and a defensive person accuses you of being defensive.

Sometimes, especially when we’re young (but the pattern can last years), we can walk into this kind of relationship and spend huge amounts of energy and time trying to make it work. The other person protests their innocence and we believe them and keep pushing and overlooking and denying our own good sense in order to make it work. After all, this is our friend, the one we like or love, the one we laugh with and have so much in common with… it’ll be ok, it’s just a matter of trying harder… and harder… and harder…

Experience brings a greater awareness … or maybe it’s more true to say a greater ‘bewareness’. Some might call it cynical, but it’s not cynicism when your heart has forgiven freely but chooses not to keep putting itself back into that place of danger repeatedly. There’s an old saying: ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’. It’s wise to learn from our past, whether it’s our past with that particular person, or just that type of person. Some of us have a habit of picking up the same sort of people on a regular basis until we finally learn to recognise the danger signals early on by the fruit that’s produced. Our maturing is in not just realising we are back there again, but in being able to take charge of our own lives and not allowing ourselves to be submerged again in someone else’s issues.

Cultivating bewareness doesn’t mean having the gift of suspicion, nor does it mean not giving people a second chance or even a third one. Bewareness is listening to that inner ‘nuh uh’ that’s happening in your heart even at the same time as your mind is saying ‘Oh no, it seems to be ok. I think it won’t happen again.’ Trust me, if on the inside you have a no, no is the way it’s gonna go.

I was talking about this kind of relationship with a friend lately and she said that some people come into your life as a friend to begin with because you wouldn’t accept how they deal with you under any other guise. It’s worth remembering that if most of your interactions with those people bring you down, they’re not a friend, no matter how much they may profess to be and no matter how much you would like them to be.

Being ‘nice’ can work against our inner bewareness; too many people end up on a treadmill of toxic relationships just because they haven’t developed the inner grit to look at the relationship realistically and choose not to go there again. Becoming mature requires toughness and courage, because maturity requires that we establish our own boundaries in such a way that we can’t be pulled back into the same old habit patterns.

Check out your relationships.

If you’re constantly having to explain yourself, feel like you’re walking on egg shells when you’re with that person…

… you’re not safe.

If you’re worried what they’ll say about you when you’re not in the room, or you know they say one thing to you and something totally different to someone else…

… you’re not safe.

If you’re afraid to express the concerns you have about your relationship for fear of their reaction…

… you’re not safe.

If you end up doing things outside of your own character and sense of integrity when you are with them….

… you’re not safe.

If your friend is always requiring you to jump through hoops to prove you’re their friend, and is always telling you how you let them down…

… you’re not safe

What’s the answer?

You don’t have to reject an unsafe friend; after all, it’s highly unlikely they know they’re unsafe and they’re often an integral part of your people group. Spending time together, laughing with them as part of your group or enjoying their company is fine, just don’t take them into your confidence. Except under extreme circumstances, rejection is not cool.

Maturity means forgiving them and continuing to treat them with respect, but knowing which compartments of your personhood you don’t want invaded anymore, and choosing to keep those areas shut to anyone you’ve found you can’t trust.  They may notice something is different; it’s likely they will, but you don’t have to explain yourself. All you have to do is to continue to treat them with the same courtesy and grace as you would anyone else, but hold your line and don’t allow them to access to the depths of who you are anymore.

Of course, the other side of bewareness and safety in relationships lies with being aware of my own self and how safe other people feel with me, and that’s a whole nother story – or is it?

#laughing #forgiveness #safe #relationship #friends #bewareness #misunderstanding #unsafe

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