The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. 2 He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name. 4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff— they protect me. Psalm 23:1-4, CEB
How do you determine whether or not it’s safe to share?
Two days ago we mentioned intuition as the starting place. But, we cannot let our intuition go unchecked because it can, of course, be wrong. We listen intently to our gut and then test it to see if it’s telling us the truth.
Sometimes (read carefully, it says sometimes) we misunderstand an event and we feel hurt. Our gut tells us we aren’t safe, but our gut is wrong. In a safe place, we can voice this. The group will hear us and affirm us but gently and kindly point out the misunderstanding and we will work collaboratively to get back to the truth. We are not shamed and we are not made to feel ungrateful. When this happens, we know that our gut is wrong that we are, indeed, quite safe. In an unsafe place, we voice our experience and we are instantly made to feel ashamed for our conclusions and we are told to respect the group, or else there will be consequences. When the latter happens, we know we are in an unsafe place and that our gut is right.
This is the essential difference between safe and unsafe places. To recap, in a safe place we can have disagreements and misunderstandings. Feelings may be hurt and we may be anxious and insecure. In this safe place, these experiences are affirmed. When we are legitimately harmed in a safe place, the group works towards amends, healing, and restoration. When we’ve misunderstood something that has happened, the group affirms our experience and we work collaboratively towards understanding.
In an unsafe place, the group refuses to affirm our experience and, instead, tells us that our experience is wrong and that we should be ashamed of ourselves for having such ideas in the first place. The group tells the injured party that they need to make amends to the group for being “disruptive”. The group will consider forgiving them as long as they behave better going forward.
Unsafe groups protect the group’s ideas first, the group itself second, and people who voice problems not at all. If you question the way the group works and are ostracized, then the group is not safe.
Safe groups work to protect all of the individuals in the group. If you question the way the group works and are met with a series of clarifying questions and empathy then you may just want to stick around…even if you’re not totally satisfied.