What are Safe People?
If you surf around this website, you would soon discover I am a strong proponent of getting connected in good, safe relationships. It is the underlying ingredient of having a healthy, maturing life.
So, what are safe relationships? A safe relationship is one that does three things:
- Draws us closer to God. (Matthew 22:37-38)
- Draws us closer to others. (Matthew 22:39)
- Helps us become the real person God created us to be. (Ephesians 2:10)
When John (Townsend) and I asked people to describe a “safe person” to us, they gave us these descriptions:
- A person who accepts me just like I am.
- A person who loves me no matter how I am being or what I do.
- A person whose influence develops my ability to love and be responsible.
- Someone who creates love and good works within me.
- Someone who gives me an opportunity to grow.
- Someone who increases love within me.
- Someone I can be myself around.
- Someone who allows me to be on the outside what I am on the inside.
- Someone who helps me to deny myself for others and God.
- Someone who allows me to become the “me” that God intended.
- Someone who helps me become the “me” God sees in me.
- Someone whose life touches mine and leaves me better for it.
- Someone who touches my life and draws me closer to who God created me to be.
- Someone who helps me be like Christ.
- Someone who helps me love others more.
We all want people in our lives that help us in these ways. But how do we recognize them? What do they look like?
If we are to begin to utilize safe relationships, we need to first understand what a safe person is and why we need that kind of safety.
The best example of a safe person is found in Jesus. In him were fount the three qualities of a safe person; dwelling, grace and truth. As John wrote: “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Dwelling refers to someone’s ability to connect with us. The Greek word used here means to “encamp” or “reside.” The origin of this word has to do with the human body as the place where the spirit resides. What this means is that safe relationships are an aspect of the incarnational qualities of Jesus, for Jesus came as a man, in the flesh. Safe people are able to “dwell in the flesh.” They are able to connect in a way that we know that they are present with us.
The second safe quality that Jesus exemplifies is grace. Grace is “unmerited favor.” It means that someone is on our side; they are “for us.” Grace implies unconditional love and acceptance with no condemnation. Relationships in which people shame or condemn us are ultimately hurtful and do not produce growth. They require us to be different that we are in order to be accepted. Love that must be earned is basically useless.
Grace does the opposite. It says that you are accepted just like you are and that you will not be shamed or incur wrath for whatever you are experiencing.
The third quality that Jesus embodied for us was truth. Truth implies many things, but in relationships it implies honesty, being real with one another, and living out the truth of God. Many people think that safe relationships are relationships that just give grace without confrontation, but ultimately these relationships can be destructive as well.
We need people in our life that will be honest with us, telling us where we are wrong and where we need to change. We need friends that walk according to the truth and live out the principles of God with us. This does not mean that they are not accepting, but it means that in their acceptance of us, they are honest about our faults without condemning us.
Good safe relationships are ones where:
- We can be present with another, connecting on a deep level.
- We receive grace and acceptance with no condemnation, giving us freedom from the fear of rejection.
- We can speak the truth to one another, confronting each other as needed.
As we develop these kinds of relationships, accompanied by the work of the Holy Spirit, we will begin to see true growth. Before we know it, we will be closer to God, closer to others, and on the road to becoming the real person God created us to be.
Taken from Safe People, © Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend, Zondervan 1995
Safe People will help you restructure your approach to relationships. Put an end to getting burned—and start enjoying the healthy, balanced relationships everyone wants and needs.
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