Happy Mental Health Monday! Right now I’m in the middle of a series on trust and safety. Here’s what I’ve talked about so far: Losing Our Safety and Characteristics of Unsafe People {Part 1} and {Part 2}. These characteristics are from the book Safe People. Today I want to start with the following quote:

“When you are measuring someone’s character, look at these traits in terms of degree. Everyone lies at some time or in some way. But not everyone is a pathological liar. Look for degrees of imperfection. If a person seems willing to change, forgive him graciously and work with him. But if he resists you, proceed with caution” (p. 39).

 Unsafe people are stagnant instead of growing.  Each individual should be growing and maturing over time. This just makes good sense, right? Healthy, well adjusted people strive to be healthy and to grow and “become”. We become increasingly safe as we grow and learn and are challenged, so if that doesn’t happen, we keep ourselves in a stagnant place in life. Even if nothing else negative happens, we may find that we quickly out grow that relationship as we mature and they do not.

 Unsafe people avoid closeness instead of connecting.  We were created to be in relationship and be open and vulnerable with one another. This creates relationship. “Time with someone does not a connection make. Only true sharing and intimacy create connection. You need to question long-term relationships in which you do not get to know the other person. If you spend significant amounts of time with an individual and still feel far away from him or her, something is wrong” (p. 42). If the relationship you are in is leading to more isolation, then this isn’t safe or healthy for you! Of course keeping people at arm’s distance may be more than appropriate, as toxic people shouldn’t be close to us. However, relationships that close us off from the rest of the world need to be questioned, as this isn’t safe.

Unsafe people are only concerned about “I” instead of “we”. Have you ever had a friend where you serve as an audience to their conversation with themselves? This self-centeredness doesn’t lead to relationship, as it is one-way. The “we” in relationship leads to empathy. “Empathy is a large part of the equation. We literally ‘enter the other person’s head’ and attempt to understand how he feels, what he believes, and how he thinks…Empathy is not easy. It involves letting go of your opinion and what you’re needing in the relationship so that you can enter the world of the other person” (p. 44).  Of course there are plenty of times were we each need a place to dump what’s going on, processing a struggle or hurt, and talk through a problem. Remember that we are looking for degree. Relationships where it’s all about the other person aren’t so safe.

Unsafe people resist freedom instead of encouraging it. In relationship there still needs to be “separateness”. Sometimes people don’t want this to occur, which can stifle a person instead of the person living in freedom. Maintaining healthy boundaries helps us to maintain a healthy separateness in relationship. Can the person you are in relationship with accept your “no”, or do they try to heap guilt on you or withdraw to “punish” you? This idea of accepting your no is absolutely CRITICAL for a healthy relationship. If someone isn’t accepting your no, they are not respecting that you have the right to an opinion. Scary, right? A safe and healthy relationship means that each individual has a right to their own thoughts and opinions.

Now it’s your turn to share! What’s your own personal next step to becoming a safer person for those in your life? Do the people in your life accept your no (and do you accept theirs)?