I was driving by a fire station a couple of weeks ago when I saw a sign that I hadn’t seen before. The sign stated that the station was a safe surrender site. That means someone could bring a child there in the first seven days of his or her life and hand them over to be cared for, without suffering any consequences normally related to abandonment. This law tries to prevent the abandonment or neglect of newborns. You can surrender your child without repercussions and know that they will be safe and provided for. My heart breaks for those in the sort of pain that makes this option necessary, but I’m glad it’s there for whoever may need it.
In smaller ways people every day would love to surrender. They would love to own their mistakes or failures. They would love to waive the white flag, surrender, and get some help. But in our society surrender isn’t safe. If you show any weakness today, it will be pasted on Facebook, Twitter, and emailed out to millions tomorrow, or most likely, later today. Thousands of people, most who do not know the person who has failed will pile on with condemnation and venom. Is it any wonder that so many people hide their true selves or their past from the world?
Is there a way to create more safety in our society for people who struggle? I’m not sure, but I do know that we can personally create safe spaces for people that allow them to be honest about their struggles. If someone admits to you something they have done wrong or are ashamed of, try to practice these three things:
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When people have gathered the courage to confess something, they don’t need you to jump in to either point out what they have done wrong or to explain it away. Let them speak. When you feel that you have heard them out, listen some more.
Wait for an invitation
It’s possible that the person who is baring their soul to you doesn’t want any feedback at all. They may just need a safe place to talk. If they don’t invite your input, keep your advice to yourself.
Be honest, but offer grace
If someone does ask you to speak to their situation, be honest. It’s not helpful to explain away things that the person is wanting to face and deal with. But, the entire conversation should be soaked in grace. There can’t be hints of judgment or disappointment, just honesty and room to work things through. Your disapproval doesn’t make someone less likely to fail, just more likely to hide it when they do.
Our world needs safe places to surrender, places where they can be wrong without being crushed. You can become one of those places our world desperately needs, and together we can make the world a safer place for everyone.