“Not a gift of a cow, nor a gift of land, nor yet a gift of food, is so important as the gift of safety, which is declared to be the great gift among all gifts in this world” (Panchatantra).
IF WE HAVE FRIENDS WITH WHOM WE ARE SAFE, WE HAVE ONE OF THE MOST VALUABLE TREASURES IN THE WORLD. In relationships where we find safety, we’re not only free to be the persons we are right now, we’re free to grow and to become more than the persons we are now. Nothing is more liberating — or motivating — than to have friendships that provide a safe harbor for our souls.
In safe relationships, there is no fear of betrayal. We don’t have to worry whether commitments will be kept. And neither is there any fear that our private selves will be exposed to those outside the safe confines of the relationship. We’re free to be intimate, to peel back even the deepest layers of our hearts, and to share the most sacred parts of our inner world. We can do these things because we’ve been made to feel secure. We’re not haunted by the possibility of dismissal.
This kind of relational safety is a wonderful thing indeed, but we shouldn’t misunderstand what it means. Those with whom we’re safe won’t hurt us, but that doesn’t mean they won’t hurt our feelings. The more faithful a friend is, the more that person will be willing to say what we need to hear, the bitter as well as the sweet. In a safe relationship, painful tidings will be delivered gently, but they’ll still be delivered. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Book of Proverbs).
What it boils down to is this: those with whom we’re safe are those who’ll deal wisely with us — with our faults as well as our finer qualities. The safety in which we rejoice doesn’t mean that our shortcomings will be condoned; it means that we’ll be consoled and encouraged and enlightened. When we fall, there’ll be strong arms to catch us and keep us from doing further harm. The very best will be believed about us — and when we’ve done less than our best, safety means that loving allowance will be made for our growth.
“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away” (Dinah Maria Mulock Craik).