Finding friends that are emotionally safe for our souls to be real around is a very important relational reality. We deeply need safe friends; friends that let us unveil our inner thoughts, desires, hopes and dreams and will not trash them. Good safe friends have a hope and goal to help us become like Christ in every way possible. And they like us. J
Interestingly, it is possible to be a safe friend and be friends with someone who is not a fully safe friend to you. It’s tricky but it can be good. I have a couple friends like that. They do sincerely like me and appreciate who I am as far as they allow themselves. The borderline happens in religious boundaries. When non salvic doctrines become dividing issues, those in opposing groups can sometimes become strident to the point of offense. Thus, in an interesting way we become reduced to talking about only certain aspects of God with them. I cannot allow my full joy in God’s omniscience to explode in their presence. The safety issue here is that being fully open and real with someone that is not safe will most often result in harm to our person. These beautiful women and men have limited their life view. While I choose to love them still, I also choose to protect myself and do my best to keep them at a distance that is safe for me. I have made mistakes here enough to know that it really is important to guard our hearts on these issues.
Sometimes, there is more hope for being a safe friend with a brother in Christ. At least most men are not afraid to talk about what they might consider to be controversial subjects. Often women who have been mentally and emotionally coerced into being “subdued” toward men, are afraid of discussing the relative issues. Men (and women) who are not deeply committed, decided, or studied on these issues are generally not afraid to discuss them.
The real challenges come when we cannot escape relating with an emotionally, spiritually and Biblically unsafe person, male or female. There are times when we must walk away from such people and stay at a distance for a time. Those times start when they become aggressive in their offenses. One of the most often used ways by religious people today to stop a person they disagree with from ministry is to seek to destroy their reputation. Ps. 31:13 says the slanderer desires to destroy life. Prov. 10:18 says that such a person is a fool and is hiding hatred. Prov. 16:28 says that such a person sows strife and separates friends. Ps. 41:7 says that such people tend to gather together in their hateful whispering. Prov. 9:8 says not to rebuke a scoffer for he will hate you. I would say that such a person will hate you more. A scoffer is one who scorns, ridicules, mocks, talks arrogantly against another. That is a description of a hateful heart. I John 2:11 says that those that hate their brother (members of family, we are a spiritual family) are in darkness and don’t know where they are going. Paul includes gossip and slander in a shocking list that describe people who do not acknowledge God in their lives. (Romans 1:28-31)
While it is true that if we are able to determine the originator of the gossip and slander, it is good to go to that one in hopes of reconciliation. In general, such a person is rarely approachable. They have a tribe of “destroyers” behind them and will seldom listen. Sometimes such an attempt will cause a ripple and some in their group may see the light and depart. In short, they become a group that is unsafe. If we value our hearts and want to walk in the liveliness of the Holy Spirit, then it is best to stay away from such people.
We cannot be ‘friends’ with such people. However, we MUST learn to be a safe person around them and not operate in the same way they do. This is where an old English saying comes into perspective. “If you cannot say something nice (good, wholesome) then it is better to not say anything at all”. This is where we follow the Bible’s admonitions to walk away from a foolish person. Don’t try to rebuke them or they will hate you more. God will let us know when, if ever, there is a time to be able to share a positive, encouraging, forgiving and life giving word of spiritual truth with them directly. We must forgive them their lack of understanding of truth and spiritual life. We must drop the chord of woundedness that binds us to them and let them go. Give them up to God. He is able. And God will heal us as we seek Him. Jesus has suffered every emotion, every pain and He knows how to help and console us and bring us back to life.
So, the question is big. Are YOU a safe person to be around. Can we be “safe”, not instigators of purposeful wounding, even to those who seek to harm us. I say that it is of utmost importance that we learn to be a person so full of the love of God that it would be unthinkable to seek to harm those who have harmed us.